OPIRG takes action against social issues that facilitate oppression through a range of factors including, but not limited to: anti-Black racism, sexism, transphobia, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and white supremacy while also addressing environmental issues such as climate change, sustainability, and pollution. However, what is particularly meaningful about OPIRG's organizing style is that they place a strong focus on how environmental issues intersect with social justice issues to create a much larger web of systemic oppression that benefits the capitalist interests of those in power while disenfranchising the people from being able to rebel against the actions of large corporations and the government.
Divestment from South African Apartheid
International boycotts against South Africa to end apartheid have a long history. At the University of Toronto a wave of organizing emerged during the mid-1980s calling for the Governing Council to withdraw from investments in South Africa. Over the next decade students and community groups in Toronto joined various boycott and divestment campaigns to apply financial pressure on the South African apartheid regime.
At U of T, the University of Toronto Anti-Apartheid Network (UTAAN) printed a newsletter, organized information campaigns about which goods were manufactured in South Africa and should therefore be boycotted, and organized an Anti-Apartheid Awareness Week. Several of the tactics currently used in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel share similarities with those used in the Anti-Apartheid in South Africa movement.
In 1986, OPIRG Toronto partnered with the Center for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) to develop a campaign aimed at making the equality rights for people with disabilities outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms more readily available and accessible to its constituents.
The objectives of the campaign were to 1) make information available to Canadians with disabilities about their equality rights under section 15 of the Charter 2) make information available and accessible to all Canadians on the barriers of discrimination for those with disabilities 3) discuss ways in which future Charter decisions will impact those with disabilities 4) discuss the needed changes in societal attitudes to ensure the equality clause would be complied with.
In order to address these objectives, a six-part radio series was developed to give voice to concerns regarding the content, accessibility, and availability of the equality rights in the Charter.
Ecotours were community bicycle tours hosted and organized by OPIRG to bring awareness to sites of environmental interest within Toronto. Guided by OPIRG, community members were re-introduced to everyday locations, such as the intersection of Bay Street and King Street, and made aware of how pollution, industrialism, and commercial development have transformed the terrain and climate of each site.
U of T Refugee and Migrant Coalition
In 1987 the Canadian government introduced two bills, C-55 and C-84, that made it more difficult for certain refugees to enter the country and further criminalized those seeking refugee status as well as those helping them. In response, a group of three organizations at the University of Toronto, OPIRG, the Women’s Centre, and Student Christian Movement, founded the University of Toronto Refugee and Immigration Coalition to oppose these bills. As part of the larger national Coalition for a Just Refugee and Immigration Policy, the U of T coalition worked to dispel misinformation about refugees and immigrants. Unfortunately, in 1988 Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government passed both Bill C-55 and Bill C-84.
Green Master Plan
In the 1990s, OPIRG embarked on a large-scale environmental research project funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources under the Environmental Youth Corps Program with the support of the University of Toronto Environmental Coalition and the Erindale Environmental Association. Student researchers investigated the impact that the University of Toronto's practices have upon the environment while the final report, entitled The Green Master Plan, outlined 68 recommendations for reducing waste on campus and implementing more sustainable practices.
The Green Master Plan became the impetus for further research projects, including a design assessment for how to pedestrianize St. George Street and an assessment of the dangers of turf pesticides used on campus. Moreover, the recommendations outlined in The Green Master Plan led to on-the-ground campaigns. One of which, the Demonstration Against Disposables, had OPIRG construct a massive tower of styrofoam cups in front of the Sidney Smith Building in order to draw attention to the excessive amount of non-recyclable waste produced by the University.