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Principal Fortier travels to Israel as part of Quebec delegation

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:55

With Premier Couillard looking on, Principal Suzanne Fortier signs a Memorandum of Understanding renewal with Tel Aviv University’s president, Joseph Klafter.

By Neale McDevitt

Principal Suzanne Fortier was part of a Quebec delegation led by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on a trade mission to Israel and the West Bank from May 21 – 24.

The goal of the mission was to increase economic and academic research ties between Quebec and Israel, a country known for its technology industry and high number of digital start-ups. Both Israel and Quebec excel in information technology, biotechnology, aerospace and agribusiness.

“We’re here to observe, to learn and, hopefully, that can lead to developments down the road,” said Couillard. It marks the first official visit to Israel by a sitting Quebec premier.

More than 100 people, including entrepreneurs, heads of research institutes and university leaders accompanied the Premier. Along with Principal Fortier, Angelique Mannella, Associate Vice-Principal (R&I), Innovation & Partnerships, took part in the Premier’s delegation. In addition, some 17 McGill researchers, as well as Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation), travelled to Israel to host workshops in the areas of Neuroscience, Oncology, and Water resources management.  with the goal of strengthening and expanding collaborations with Israeli universities.

Speaking with the CBC, Principal Fortier, noted that one of the goals of the mission was to create better links between university researchers and the private sector. “We have to ensure that what happens [at McGill] has benefits for society, and ensure that the knowledge and technologies pass into the hands of entrepreneurs who are going to put them in practice,” she said.

On Sunday, Principal Fortier accompanied the Premier to the Kufr Aqab Center in East Jerusalem. The Center is part of the International Community Action Network (ICAN), a McGill-based initiative that combines social work and legal aid to empower disadvantaged populations.

ICAN has established 11 rights-based practice community centres in some of the most disadvantaged areas of Palestine, Jordan and Israel. These ICAN centres provide services such as legal aid, education and housing to over 120,000 people each year, implementing programs that engage, educate and empower the citizens most affected by conflict, economic hardship and instability.

“For over two decades, ICAN-McGill has advanced community leadership in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Its centers aim to serve some of the region’s most marginalized communities and in doing so, empower them,” Principal Fortier said during her address at the Kufr Aqab Center. “Through our visit today, McGill wishes to reinforce its proud partnership with ICAN and express our pride in the McGillians who work to improve the social welfare of people in East Jerusalem and across the region.”

On Tuesday, the Principal was part of the Quebec delegation that visited Tel Aviv University (TAU). With Premier Couillard looking on, the Principal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) renewal with TAU’s president, Joseph Klafter.

The renewed MOU recognizes many areas of collaboration between the two institutions, including the formal partnership between Brain@McGill and the Adams Super Center for Brain Studies of TAU. The collaborative effort addresses the challenges of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.  Principal Fortier noted that both units “possess complementary strengths in neuroscience, and a stronger relationship between them will benefit students and researchers at both of our great universities.”

Later that day, Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation), signed a new MOU with Ben Gurion University, one of Israel’s leading research universities and announced that McGill had also signed a new MOU with Hebrew University, where three research workshops were hosted during the mission.

Purdy passes the vocal torch to Smith Bessette

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:04

Singing at Convocation since 1999, Winston Purdy is handing the microphone to Tracy Smith Bessette.

By McGill Reporter Staff

First there’s the skirl of the pipes, then Winston Purdy’s rich baritone rolls across the audience as he sings the University anthem, Hail, Alma Mater, to  mark the beginning of almost every Convocation ceremony since 1999. That musical accompaniment has been a feature of decades of processions of students, faculty and families as they walk into the Convocation tent.

Now after 18 years Purdy says his “15-minutes of fame,” is coming to a close, Winston Purdy is relinquishing the stage to colleague and fellow music professor Tracy Smith Bessette, who has taught singing the past two years in the Voice department at the Schulich School of Music where they both work.

Purdy recommended Smith Bessette. “She’s a young voice teacher – and active as a performer so I thought she’d be a good choice,” he says.

Purdy says it was just getting to be too much for him. “In the early 2000s the number of ceremonies was expanded and this spring it’s 14. So it’s now a big commitment for everyone involved,” he says. “ I really enjoyed doing it, and my voice is still OK, but I find getting around to be more and more difficult. I shall miss it this year, but it’s good that someone younger takes over now and even better that it’s a staff member from the Music School. “

Purdy first took the stage at Convocation 18 years ago, taking over for his late wife, Kathleen Anderson – herself a Convocation fixture since the late 1970s. Purdy says being able to continue in his wife’s footsteps made each ceremony “very significant for me.”

For her part, Smith Bessette says she is very honoured to be inheriting the tradition from Purdy and his wife.

“The first time I heard Hail, Alma Mater, it was actually being sung by Professor Purdy at my own doctoral convocation last year! I still need to find a copy of it for myself so that I can learn it before the 14 convocations ceremonies,” she says with a chuckle. “That is quite a large number of people and to tell you the truth the nerves never entirely disappear. You just learn how to use the nervous energy for ‘good’ rather than let it debilitate you. It’s still a bit nerve wracking to sing in front of all of your colleagues and students, so I imagine the most challenging convocation for me to sing will be the Music one.”

The first McGill University Song Book appeared in 1879, compiled by an unidentified arts student. It included ten songs about McGill and folk songs including what may be the earliest published version of Alouette. The 1885 edition was compiled by a committee including Charles Moyse (later Dean of Arts), and Bernard J, Harrington (the first Macdonald Professor of Chemistry). While the origin of many of the songs and the first compilation remain unknown, there is evidence that songs and singing formed an integral part of 19th and early 20th Century student life at McGill.

Hail, Alma Mater is first noted in the program for Principal and Vice-Chancellor Douglas’s Installation in 1938. Since 1938 it is a regular feature of Installation and Convocation ceremonies.

Hail, Alma Mater

Hail, Alma Mater, we sing to thy praise;
Loud in thy Honour, our voices we raise.
Full to thy fortune, our glasses we fill.
Life and Prosperity, Dear Old McGill.

Hail, Alma Mater, thy praises we sing;
Far down the centuries, still may they ring.
Long through the ages remain – if God will;
Queen of the Colleges, Dear Old McGill


Helping to train First Nations leaders of today and tomorrow

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 09:05

By McGill Reporter Staff

The 2017 EMBA McGill-HEC Montréal Scholarship for Managers of Indigenous Origin is now accepting applications. The deadline for applications is June 1.

This $50,000 scholarship, offered annually, supports managers of Indigenous origin in Canada as they pursue their academic and professional journey.

The McGill-HEC Montreal EMBA, a partnership between McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management and HEC Montréal, is a program for seasoned managers who continue working while they participate in the 15-month program. The program welcomes approximately forty participants annually.  Classes typically meet Thursday through Sunday, once a month. Reflecting the reality of Canadian business, the program is delivered in a bilingual format. The program is practice-focused and builds on Henry Mintzberg’s managerial mindsets.

“Diversity of experience and perspective is one of the core values of our program. Facilitating the presence of these scholarship recipients in the classroom is therefore very important because they bring different perspectives and experiences” says Alain Pinsonneault, co-director of the McGill-HEC Montréal Executive MBA. “However, since the launch of this scholarship program, in December 2013, we have received relatively few applications. We really hope to receive more in the coming years.”

In 2014, Manon Jeannotte became the first First Nations EMBA McGill-HEC Montréal Scholarship for Managers of Indigenous Origin recipient. Jeannotte was the elected urban councillor for the Montreal region of the Gespeg Mi’kmaq Nation, and Board member of Land InSights, the Society for the Diffusion of the Aboriginal culture. During her studies, with the encouragement of her class mates, she decided to run for Chief. She was elected Chief of the Gespeg Micmac Nation in 2015.

Manon Jeannotte and Jason Annahatak both praise the EMBA McGill-HEC Montréal Scholarship for Managers of Indigenous Origin.

Jeannotte’s final paper for the EMBA program looked at how First Nations can become more independent economically.  She will be making a presentation on this subject in June.  The occasion is a day on economic development that Jeannotte has organized for the Table des Chefs de Quebec.  In addition, she has been in touch with the EMBA program to collaborate on bringing knowledge from the EMBA program to the Table des Chefs.  The first initiative involves building a strong network between First Nations leaders. The program will help Manon map the existing network between Quebec’s Chiefs. The strength of the network will be measured periodically over time to see how it is developing.  Other collaborations will follow.

“The EMBA McGill-HEC helped me understand the business world. It permitted me to better define problems that I hadn’t seen before.” says Jeannotte. “The program has had a major impact on me. As an elected chief I hope I can use what I learned to advance my community as well as other First Nations communities. I believe that the survival of our cultures depends on business development and a better understanding of business in general.”

Jason Annahatak is a current program participant (He is slated to graduate in February 2018) and Director, Post-Secondary Student Services, for the Kativik School Board.

“The EMBA program at McGill-HEC Montréal is pertinent for Aboriginal managers because as dedicated workers for the betterment of our people, we rarely work for non-Aboriginal organizations,” says Annahatak. “The EMBA gives you the chance to work with top influencers of other organizations and explore their best practices without leaving our own aboriginal organizations. Students in the program include lawyers, soldiers, HR specialists, physicians, entrepreneurs, accountants, engineers and other amazingly diverse professionals who you get a chance to work with as equal collaborators. This mix and collaboration is unheard of in the natural working world.”



Upcoming email changes to take advantage of Office 365

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 08:16

Starting in June and continuing into the fall, McGill IT Services will be making the following changes to optimize our email processes and gain the full benefits of moving to Email on Office 365:

1) New management of redirects

Starting mid-June, all users will have a new way to self-manage redirects from their and email addresses to other email services (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or McGill departmental servers).

Instead of using McGill’s Reggie site to specify a redirect, all students, alumni, faculty and staff members will have a McGill mailbox on Office 365 that they can manage themselves, via one of three options:

  • Option 1: Add the McGill email account to your computer/device (in addition to your alternative email accounts)
  • Option 2: Go to the web interface of your preferred/alternative email provider and “Add” your McGill email account (i.e., sync your McGill email to the other service)
  • Option 3: Forward mail from your McGill email to another email address

Note that restrictions on use of cloud services for instructors and staff may prevent some people from using options 2 and 3. Find details and instructions in the IT Knowledge Base article Options for dealing with multiple email services.

Those who currently have redirects in place will receive a notification shortly, with instructions on how to proceed.

2) Decommissioning of legacy email addresses: and

Old email addresses ending in and will be decommissioned in September. These addresses were phased out and replaced by and in 2004.Most people who had the old addresses stopped using them long ago; however the old addresses still exist and currently redirect incoming mail to active accounts. After the decommissioning, any mail sent to the old addresses will simply not be delivered. Faculty, staff and alumni affected by this change have already been notified; those who entered McGill after 2004 are not affected.

3) Anti-spam and antivirus services provided through Office 365

Currently, email for most of McGill still flows through servers managed by central IT.  In addition to basic routing, these servers also provide antivirus and antispam services. In the fall, IT Services will replace these services with Microsoft Office 365 functions. Further details will be announced in the fall.


Brigitte Kieffer appointed to French National Order of Merit

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 08:02

Dr. Brigitte Kieffer is an world renowned expert on opioid receptors. / Photo: Julian Dufort

Dr. Brigitte Kieffer, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine at McGill and Scientific Director of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, was appointed an officer of the French National Order of Merit during a ceremony held in Montreal on May 19. The National Order of Merit recognizes the distinguished service of French citizens in translating the dynamism of society, being a positive role model and recognizing diversity.

“This distinction is a great honour for me,” says Dr. Kieffer, who is also the holder of the Monique H. Bourgeois Chair in Pervasive Developmental Disorders at McGill University and the Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Addiction and Mood Disorders. “It is also a tremendous recognition of the efforts made by all the members of my team, past and present, over the course of 25 years of research. Our work has already had important implications towards our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in pain, addiction and depression and will, I hope, have concrete implications for the treatment of these diseases.”

Dr. Kieffer’s research on opioid receptors is recognized internationally. By isolating the first gene encoding such a receptor, it opened up the field of exploration of the molecular mechanisms underlying nociceptive responses, as well as behaviors related to reward processes and responses to stress.

After completing a doctorate in organic chemistry and biochemistry in 1983 at the University of Strasbourg and postdoctoral research at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Switzerland, Dr. Kieffer joined the faculty of the University of Strasbourg in 1989. She has been a visiting professor at the University of California at Los Angeles since 1998. In 2001, she began her research at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology (IGBMC) in Strasbourg, an institution she led from 2012 to 2013. She was appointed Scientific Director of the Douglas Institute and Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University in 2014.

In addition to this most recent recognition, she has received numerous prestigious honours during her career, including the Lamonica Prize for Neurology (Academy of Sciences) and the L’Oréal-UNESCO Prize for Women and Science. She was named Knight of the French Legion of Honour in 2012 and a member of the French Academy of Sciences in 2013.


McGill alumna gravely injured in Times Square rampage

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 21:46

Elena Avetisian is in a coma, one of nearly two dozen victims of the May 18 Times Square drive-through rampage that killed a tourist.

By Doug Sweet

In 2007, Elena Avetisian was graduating from McGill in Continuing Studies, a bright future ahead of her. Today, the mother of three is fighting for her life in a New York hospital, one of the dozens of victims of a senseless automobile rampage through Times Square last Thursday that left one young woman dead.

In New York for a cousin’s wedding, Avetisian remained in a coma over the weekend.

A fundraising effort has begun to help provide support the family will need in the coming days and weeks.

“I write this with tears in  my eyes,” said Elena’s cousin, Anna Avetisian, on the Go Fund Me website set up to raise the needed funds. “Never would I have thought I would be creating a page like this.”

As of Monday night, nearly 200 people had raised more than $10,000 of a $20,000-goal in a single day.

Avetisian, 38, was taking pictures one moment, and in critical condition the next, the New York Daily News reported her relatives as saying. Her uncle, Emil Avetisian, 58, said his niece was separated from a group of relatives to buy a stroller for a tired child when the car sped through, according to the Daily News story.

On Friday, a judge ordered Richard Rojas, 26, held without bail on a charge of murder and 20 counts of attempted murder. A U.S.Navy veteran, who had been discharged for disciplinary reasons, American media reported over the weekend, Rojas told police he had smoked pot laced with PCP and declared that he wanted to “kill them all,” prosecutors said.

Avetisian’s sister and husband are staying in New York to be by her side, her cousin Anna said on the Go Fund Me site. “They will need to travel back and forth in order to take care of the children. Her girls are staying with their grandmother and miss their mother terribly. They need all the help and support they can get at this time.”

Another tourist, Alyssa Elsman, 18, of Michigan, was struck and killed on 7th Ave. when Rojas’s Honda Accord raced through the busy plaza. Her sister was also injured in the mayhem.

$75,000 Cundill History Prize relaunched

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:39

‘Nixon in China’ historian Margaret MacMillan named to lead jury

By McGill Reporter Staff

In a time when people have trouble discerning what information is reliable and what isn’t, “fake news” has become the clarion call for many. In particular, the world is transfixed on the United States, where the some of the mainstream media has been riven along party lines and it seems as if unflinching partisan fealty has gained more currency in some newsrooms than the search for objective truth.

With that as the backdrop to volatile times, the relaunching of the Cundill Prize in History seems more a cultural necessity than an exercise in rebranding.

“History,” says Margaret MacMillan, “is part of the toolbox of democracy.”

Renowned historian Margaret MacMillan will serve as the Chair of Judges for the Cundill History Prize

MacMillan, a Canadian and an eminent historian and award-winning author, has been named as the Chair of Judges for the Cundill Prize, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

MacMillan believes current events have made historical scholarship particularly relevant.  “We live in a challenging world and it is more important than ever to understand ourselves and others, where we came from and where we might be going, and only history can provide those insights,” says the current Warden of St Antony’s College and Professor of International History, at the University of Oxford.

The Cundill History Prize recognizes and rewards the best history writing in English, with $75,000 U.S. going to the winner, and the two runners-up each receiving a Recognition of Excellence Award worth $10,000 U.S. The Prize was established by F. Peter Cundill (1938-2011), a distinguished alumnus of McGill, a philanthropist and renowned global investor. A voracious reader and inveterate traveller, Cundill had an abiding passion for history who believed it was possible to comprehend the present and arrive at a measured perspective about the future only by first understanding the past.

McGill has commissioned a new brand identity for the 10th anniversary, complete with a redesigned website, which has just been launched. For the first time this year, a longlist will be announced in addition to a shortlist, followed by the three finalists.

Antonia Maioni, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, says the prize has been revamped “to evoke a better understanding of humanity and illuminate the truth at a time when objective facts are increasingly losing out to populism.

“At what feels like a turning point in world affairs, we at McGill believe it is more important than ever to champion the highest quality historical scholarship produced anywhere across the globe,” Maioni said.

Submissions are open until June 16, 2017, for books published in English between June 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017. The winner will be announced at the Cundill History Prize awards ceremony to be held in Montreal on November 16, 2017.

Past winners of the Cundill Prize in History include:

Thomas W. Laqueur – The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains

Susan Pedersen – The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire

Gary Bass – The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide

Anne Applebaum – Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956

Stephen Platt – Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, The West, And The Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War

Sergio Luzzatto – Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age

Diarmaid MacCulloch – A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

Lisa Jardine – Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland’s Glory

Stuart B. Schwartz – All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World.


May 25: Free bike engraving

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:38

McGill Security Services will be teaming up with the SPVM (Montreal Police) to provide free bike engravings on the downtown campus on May 25.

Every year there are about 2,000 bicycle thefts reported to the police. Engraving your bike helps your chances of getting it back if it is stolen since the number that is etched onto your bike is permanent and entered into a database that can be accessed by many police stations. The program also deters theft since it makes it more difficult for thieves to resell a stolen bike.

The engravings will take place outside Burnside Hall (South Entrance) on May 25, from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m., rain or shine.

Capsules capture a moment in time

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 17:43

Allan Oliver installs the Teflon time capsule in a column of the Roddick Gates. / Photo: Owen Egan

Roddick Gates time capsules give glimpse into today’s McGill, Montreal and Canada

By Neale McDevitt

On Monday, May 15, the second of two new time capsules was installed inside the Roddick Gates as renovation work on the Gates is entering its final phase. The time capsules, one made of Teflon and the other of stainless steel, contain an eclectic variety of items ranging from to McGill pins and unused Habs playoff tickets to handwritten letters and commemorative socks.

“A time capsule should be a snapshot of the times,” says Allan Oliver, Energy Control Technician, and the person who spearheaded the project. “I hope when people open the capsules, they will look at the contents and see that we were OK.”

But while the focus of any time capsule story is its contents, the story of what goes into assembling one can be just captivating.

Contents of the stainless steel capsule include dice, USB keys full of photos and commemorative Canadian socks

Oliver is a long-time veteran of McGill’s HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) unit. Befitting a man who will mark his 43-year at the University later this summer, Oliver is very interested in the passage of time. “I was never very good at school, except for history,” says Oliver with a chuckle. “I like knowing the stories behind things.”

Not surprisingly, Oliver is particularly interested in time capsules, sometimes going through archived records to see if he can find clues as to their whereabouts in McGill buildings of a certain vintage. “Many of the buildings in the City’s downtown core probably have their own time capsules, as do lots of McGill’s buildings,” says Oliver, whose sleuthing leads him to suspect one such capsule is located in the large stone marked “1963” by the Leacock entrance closest to the Redpath Museum.

When he heard that a time capsule was uncovered by construction workers in one of the columns on the east side of the Roddick Gates on March 1, Oliver was intrigued. Excitement gave way to disappointment when it turned out that the container had been damaged and the contents proved to be nothing more than a handful of paper, most of it degraded and covered by mold.

Workers prepare to seal the stainless steel time capsule atop the Roddick Gates arch. / Photo: Owen Egan

But, thought Oliver, with the Roddick Gates – complete with a piece of stone that was scored and chiseled specifically to fit a 2 x 5 x 7-inch time capsule – on the verge of being reassembled, why not install a new capsule?

“I went to Ron Critchley [Academic Adviser, BCOM Office] – who was my wingman throughout this – with the idea and he thought it was great,” says Oliver. “From there, Lori Podolsky and Gordon Burr [McGill archivists], sent me information from Heritage Canada on how to build a time capsule – I didn’t even know there were guidelines!”

Speaking to McGill engineers and tradespeople, Oliver decided to build two capsules, a Teflon prototype and the final stainless steel version. Engineering Dean Jim Nicell gave the OK to have the capsules built and engraved in McGill machine shops and Ram Panda, incoming Chair of McGill’s Board of Governors, even gave his input on designing the capsules’ gasketing. Most importantly, Oliver got the go-ahead from Luc Roy, Director, Building Operations, Facilities Operations & Development.

To fill the final capsule, Oliver says he spent much of his time “running around with my big bag – like Mary Poppins,” in a glorified scavenger hunt that took him from one corner of the campus to the other.

He got McGill service pins, from 15 years to 50, from Human Resources; McGill crests and assorted merch from the Bookstore; and campus photos from longtime University photographer, Owen Egan (stored on military-grade USB keys).

Non-McGill memorabilia included everything from a Vimy Ridge pin and a Liberal Party membership card to a Tim Horton’s card (“still with some money on it!”) and a pair of socks commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday – complete with decorative Mounties.

But Oliver didn’t want the capsule just to be a grab bag of items. He approached dozens of people – both in and out of McGill – to write personal letters. “There were no guidelines in terms of content, people were free to write whatever they wanted,” said Oliver, noting that, since he knew all the contributors, he made it a point of not reading anyone’s submissions, including that of Principal Suzanne Fortier.

Oliver added his own letter “to my unborn grandchildren,” he said with a smile.

The letters, all written on acid-free paper, were laminated to guard against degradation.

Quickly realizing he had too many items to squeeze into the stainless steel capsule, Oliver decided to use the Teflon prototype as well. Once all the items were in place, each capsule was flushed with argon gas three times to eliminate as much bacteria as possible before being sealed.

The Teflon capsule has been installed in a column on the east side of the Gates and the stainless steel version now rests in the arch where the original time capsule was found earlier this spring.

Oliver admits that this has been a labour of love. “It’s my legacy,” he says. “One of the things I wrote in my letter was something someone told me long ago. ‘What you have done, someone has done before you. What you are doing, someone will do after you. Do the best with the time you have.’

“Good words to live by.”


McGill accueille 6 000 personnes lors du Congrès de l’Acfas

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:34

Le Congrès annuel de l’Acfas (Association francophone pour le savoir), plus grand rassemblement scientifique du monde universitaire francophone, a eu lieu à McGill du 8 au 12 mai dernier. L’événement a été une véritable réussite. Les chiffres sont éloquents : 6 000 congressistes venus de 40 pays, et 3 400 communications scientifiques présentées dans plus de 200 séminaires portant sur 30 domaines de recherche. En outre, plus de 1 000 personnes ont participé aux 11 activités grand public de l’événement Science-moi!

« Nous sommes extrêmement fiers du succès qu’a connu le Congrès », se réjouit Allison Flynn, responsable de l’événement. « La coordination d’un événement d’une telle envergure à McGill n’est pas une mince affaire, et cette année, c’était plus complexe que jamais en raison des chantiers. Mais il y a tellement de gens – de dizaines d’unités un peu partout sur le campus – qui ont mis la main à la pâte et contribué à ce travail d’équipe colossal. Les choses se sont passées comme sur des roulettes. »

Il fallait notamment coordonner l’utilisation d’une centaine de salles réparties dans 20 immeubles du campus du centre-ville. Plus de 100 bénévoles de la communauté mcgilloise ont assuré la bonne marche de l’événement, servant de guides aux congressistes, répondant à leurs questions dans les kiosques d’information ou s’assurant du bon fonctionnement du matériel audiovisuel et informatique lors des présentations.

L’Acfas donne la priorité aux jeunes chercheurs, puisqu’elle souhaite leur permettre de parfaire leurs aptitudes de communicateurs et d’enrichir leur curriculum vitæ. Les 240 employés et étudiants de McGill qui ont fait des exposés sur les diverses tribunes provenaient de disciplines variées.

Comme le fait observer la principale Suzanne Fortier, le choix du campus comme cadre du Congrès permet aux organisateurs d’éviter la location d’un centre de congrès, ce qui représenterait des coûts énormes vu l’ampleur de l’événement. Or, ce sont les jeunes chercheurs et les étudiants qui profitent de cette économie, puisqu’ils peuvent assister au Congrès à moindre coût. En outre, la principale Fortier a confié au quotidien montréalais francophone Le Devoir que le français était de plus en plus présent à McGill, environ 60 pour cent des personnes sur le campus – étudiants et employés – étant en mesure de converser dans cette langue. « Nous encourageons nos étudiants à apprendre le français pendant leur passage à McGill. La culture francophone compte pour beaucoup dans l’attrait qu’exercent la ville de Montréal et l’Université McGill. »

Le Congrès de l’Acfas a eu droit à une excellente couverture médiatique. En effet, quelque 70 journalistes accrédités se sont mêlés aux congressistes, et leur présence s’est traduite par la publication de plus de 350 articles et entrefilets. Le Devoir a publié un supplément Acfas et Radio-Canada a organisé La semaine des sciences. Par ailleurs, de nombreux présentateurs du Congrès ont parlé de leur travail dans le cadre d’entrevues diffusées à la radio et à la télévision.

Enfin, #Acfas a été l’un des mots-clics les plus populaires sur Twitter à Montréal, et on a enregistré au-delà de 12 000 mentions « J’aime » sur la page Facebook de l’événement.


McGill welcomes 6,000 people for Acfas Congress

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:21

By McGill Reporter Staff

With the dust still settling following the end of the Acfas (Association Francophone Pour Le Savoir) conference, held at McGill from May 8-12, the numbers speak to the event’s success. The annual congress, the largest scientific event in the French-speaking academic world, drew some 6,000 attendees from 40 countries and included 3,400 scientific papers in more than 200 seminars in 30 fields of research. As well, the 11 public events under the “Science moi!” banner attracted more than 1,000 people.

“We are so proud of the success of this year’s Congress,” said Allison Flynn, McGill’s Congress Director. “Coordinating an event of this size at McGill can be pretty complex, and this year’s ongoing construction projects added an extra layer of complexity. But so many people – from dozens of units across campus – contributed to this colossal team effort. It all really came together in the end.”

That team effort included coordinating the use of approximately 100 rooms in some 20 buildings on the downtown campus. More than 100 volunteers from the McGill community helped keep the event running smoothly, doing everything from working as guides and managing information booths to supporting classroom AV/IT.

Acfas prioritizes the work of young researchers, giving them an opportunity to build up their communication skills and CVs. The 240 McGill staff and students who presented in various forums were from a wide cross section of disciplines.

Principal Suzanne Fortier pointed out that holding a conference of this calibre on campus permits organizers to avoid the high cost of booking a commercial conference venue. Those savings are passed on to young researchers and students, allowing them to attend at a lower cost. Prof. Fortier also told Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper that French is more and more prevalent at McGill, with roughly 60 per cent of those on campus – students and employees – able to converse in French. “We encourage our students to use their time at McGill to learn French. French language culture is a big asset which draws people to Montreal and to McGill.”

Acfas received ample media coverage. Some 70 accredited journalists attended the Congress, generating more than 350 articles and news items. Le Devoir published a special Acfas supplement and Radio-Canada organized “La semaine des sciences.” Many of those who presented at the conference were asked to do interviews about their work on the radio and television.

#Acfas trended on Twitter in Montreal, and exceeded 12,000 “likes” on its FB fan page.


Aldo Bensadoun : « Le prochain Elon Musk ou Jeff Bezos sera peut-être un diplômé de McGill »

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 12:34

Développement du concept architectural par DMA Architectes. Illustration par Benoit Jacques.

Le prochain Elon Musk sera-t-il un diplômé mcgillois ? Aldo Bensadoun le souhaite et espère que son don de 25 millions à l’Université McGill y contribuera.

L’Université a annoncé la semaine dernière qu’une future École de gestion du commerce au détail verra le jour à l’automne 2018 grâce à un don de 25 millions de la Fondation de la famille Bensadoun.

L’École Bensadoun de gestion du commerce au détail pourrait avoir des retombées pour Montréal en y attirant des étudiants et des professeurs de haut calibre, sans compter les entreprises qui pourraient vouloir participer.

Aldo Bensadoun

Un secteur en crise
Depuis 10 ans, le commerce en ligne a bouleversé le secteur du commerce au détail à l’échelle mondiale. D’année en année, les entreprises spécialisées dans la vente en ligne grappillent une part de marché grandissante aux grandes surfaces.

« L’idée, c’est que le commerce au détail a beaucoup changé, on parle d’une véritable transformation et d’une révolution, dit Aldo Bensadoun. Les champions d’hier qui étaient les Walmart et les Zara doivent aujourd’hui pédaler très fort pour arriver à rejoindre leurs clients alors que des gens comme Amazon et Google ont compris le besoin du consommateur, ils s’adressent à eux et prennent une part énorme du marché. »

Une obligation morale
Cette réalité a convaincu Aldo Bensadoun de l’importance de créer un lieu destiné aux étudiants, aux professeurs-chercheurs et aux professionnels qui veulent réinventer l’avenir d’un secteur qui peine à composer avec la révolution numérique. Pour le philanthrope, il allait de soi que ce centre d’excellence s’installe à McGill, son alma mater.

« J’ai choisi l’Université McGill parce que c’est une institution forte et de calibre international, explique-t-il. J’ai étudié à McGill et j’ai donc une obligation morale et le privilège de pouvoir appuyer l’université. »

Des solutions innovantes
L’École Bensadoun de gestion du commerce au détail aura notamment le mandat d’étudier comment s’adapter aux nouveaux comportements des consommateurs et fournir aux détaillants des solutions innovantes, un succès qui sera largement tributaire de l’intégration de disciplines connectées comme l’analyse des mégadonnées, l’intelligence artificielle et les neurosciences. Le centre de recherche misera ainsi sur une approche multidisciplinaire et souhaite mettre à profit les nombreuses spécialités qu’abrite l’université, que ce soit en sociologie, en neurosciences, en architecture ou en sciences informatiques.

« Si nous avons un centre d’excellence à McGill, nous allons attirer les meilleurs étudiants de la planète et le prochain Elon Musk [fondateur de PayPal] ou Jeff Bezos [fondateur d’] sera peut-être un diplômé de McGill », rêve M. Bensadoun.


Montréal, plaque tournante de l’intelligence artificielle

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 12:15

L’arrivée imminente d’un nouvel Institut de recherche en intelligence artificielle (IA) et la grappe industrielle annoncée cette semaine par Québec permettra aux acteurs de ce milieu de façonner la « révolution industrielle » annoncée par l’IA.

En ajoutant à cette grappe la stratégie pancanadienne en IA, qui mènera prochainement à la création d’un institut de recherche à Montréal, la métropole aura tous les éléments nécessaires afin de consolider la place qu’elle occupe dans ce secteur économique en pleine ébullition, dit Doina Precup, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada en apprentissage automatique à l’Université McGill.

Tel qu’annoncé lundi, la grappe bénéficiera d’un investissement provincial de 100 millions au cours des cinq prochaines années dans le but de stimuler la recherche et l’innovation en IA.

« C’est une occasion rêvée de créer un centre névralgique autour duquel tous les acteurs en IA vont pouvoir se réunir et interagir, dit-elle. Ces structures vont permettre de renforcer la synergie qui s’est créée à Montréal. »

Partager son expertise

Depuis plusieurs années, Montréal s’est en effet taillé une réputation de joueur important dans le milieu IA grâce aux universitaires, start-ups et géants de l’informatique — dont Google et Microsoft — qui ont décidé d’établir domicile dans la métropole.

Plus que jamais, les chercheurs ont toutefois besoin d’un endroit où se réunir pour faciliter les collaborations et leur permettre de bénéficier des compétences de leurs collègues.

« Nous avons vraiment différentes perspectives et nous avons besoin des compétences et des outils de chacun pour résoudre différents problèmes. Il sera important de créer un environnement où nous allons pouvoir en profiter et interagir au quotidien », se réjouit Mme Precup, qui siégera au comité d’orientation de la grappe industrielle à titre d’observatrice.

Une nouvelle « révolution industrielle » et des défis éthiques

Le concept de l’IA demeure, pour le commun des mortels, une idée abstraite et relève presque de la science-fiction. Cette technologie commence pourtant à s’immiscer dans notre quotidien. On a qu’à penser aux systèmes de reconnaissance vocale de plus en plus sophistiqués dont sont aujourd’hui dotés nos téléphones. Grâce aux progrès rapides de l’IA, la tendance ira en s’accélérant et de nombreux secteurs, notamment la médecine, seront chambardés.

« C’est vraiment le début d’une nouvelle révolution industrielle et ça va profondément bouleverser la société, notamment le marché du travail. C’est sûr qu’on va voir des emplois disparaître, mais d’autres seront créés », explique Doina Precup.

Même si elle se dit convaincue que l’IA aura surtout des bienfaits pour la société, les chercheurs se doivent d’être proactifs afin d’éviter d’éventuels dérapages. Ce n’est pas que l’IA soit foncièrement mauvaise, mais plutôt que « les données avec lesquelles on programme le système peuvent poser problème. »

« C’est un peu comme lorsqu’on élève un enfant, il va imiter ce qu’il entend à la maison, explique-t-elle. On se rend donc compte que si l’on veut utiliser l’IA afin de faire des prédictions sur la criminalité ou établir des primes d’assurance, il va falloir que les systèmes informatiques reçoivent des données objectives et dépourvues des préjugés que l’on retrouve dans la société. »

L’institut sera donc l’occasion de réfléchir à ces questions et une partie de son mandat sera « d’étudier les manières que l’on peut mitiger les impacts sociaux de l’IA à court et moyen terme » en intégrant des sociologues, des éthiciens, des économistes et des juristes à l’équipe de recherche.

Intelligence artificielle en bref

Les scientifiques espèrent arriver à doter les ordinateurs « d’intelligence » en utilisant un concept appelé l’apprentissage automatique (machine learning). Il existe aujourd’hui plusieurs formes d’apprentissage automatique, notamment l’apprentissage profond (deep learning) et l’apprentissage par renforcement (reinforcement learning).

Apprentissage profond (deep learning)

L’Université de Montréal a plusieurs spécialistes en apprentissage profond. Ces systèmes sont dotés d’un « cerveau » composé d’un grand nombre d’unités de calculs qui, ensemble, imitent de manière simplifiée les neurones d’un cerveau humain. Les interactions entre ces « neurones » permettent au système d’apprendre progressivement à partir différentes données, comme des textes ou des images, qui lui ont été préalablement fournies. Les chercheurs pourraient par exemple présenter une série d’images d’une tasse afin que le système soit lui-même capable d’identifier cet objet par la suite.

Apprentissage par renforcement (reinforcement learning)

L’apprentissage par renforcement, une spécialité à McGill, est une catégorie d’apprentissage automatique où l’appareil apprend grâce à l’interaction avec son environnement, par essai et erreur, un peu comme le ferait un animal ou un enfant. Les chercheurs tentent ainsi de faire en sorte que la machine soit capable de raisonner afin de prendre une décision. Par exemple, une équipe de recherche composée de chercheurs de l’Université McGill a programmé un robot afin qu’il apprenne à nager en faisant appel à l’apprentissage par renforcement.


Réduction des émissions de GES : Des progrès importants et des objectifs ambitieux à McGill

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:53

L’une des initiatives ayant contribué à la réduction des émissions de GES de l’Université est la modernisation de son système de distribution d’énergie au campus Macdonald, à Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.

Par Julie Fortier

Pour chauffer et climatiser ses installations, l’Université McGill consomme annuellement l’équivalent de la consommation de 13 000 ménages, ou encore, d’une ville de la taille de Sorel-Tracy (1,4 million gigajoules).

Il faut dire qu’avec 6,7 millions de pieds carrés, soit un peu moins de deux fois la superficie du parc Lafontaine, l’Université McGill est l’un des plus importants propriétaires fonciers sur l’île de Montréal. Elle doit aussi composer avec des défis particuliers.

« Ses bâtiments sont âgés — une trentaine d’entre eux ont été construits avant 1900 — et son volume de recherche est parmi les plus importants au Canada, souligne Denis Mondou, directeur de la Gestion des services d’utilité et de l’énergie de l’Université McGill. Or, les laboratoires sont énergivores. Chacun consomme l’équivalent de quatre ménages. »

Malgré une augmentation significative de la superficie de ses installations et de son nombre d’occupants au cours des 25 dernières années, l’Université a réussi à réduire ses émissions de gaz à effet de serre (GES) de sources de combustion stationnaire* — c’est-à-dire le chauffage, l’humidification, la stérilisation des laboratoires et des animaleries et l’eau chaude —  de 34 %. Dans son nouveau plan quinquennal, elle vise le double, une réduction de 64 % comparativement à 1990.

Depuis 2002, elle a réduit son intensité énergétique (la consommation par mètre carré) de 26 %. Sa cible d’ici cinq ans : 35 %.

Remplacement d’équipements vétustes

L’une des initiatives ayant contribué à l’atteinte de ces objectifs est la modernisation de son système de distribution d’énergie au campus Macdonald, à Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, lequel avait plus de cent ans.

« Avec les années, le campus s’est développé de plus en plus loin de la centrale et la distance entre la centrale et les utilisateurs entraînait des pertes d’énergie. Aussi, certains composants du réseau avaient atteint leur fin de vie utile. Les tunnels [qui servaient entre autres au transport de la vapeur], notamment, étaient dans un état critique », explique Jérôme Conraud, gestionnaire de l’énergie à McGill.

Le système de distribution de vapeur a été remplacé par un système à eau chaude, option moins énergivore qui permettra l’intégration éventuelle d’énergies renouvelables, comme la géothermie — le recours à l’énergie du sol — et l’énergie solaire. À lui seul, ce projet a permis de réduire l’intensité énergétique du campus Macdonald de 28 % et de 41 % ses émissions de GES, comparativement à 2002-2003 (en plus de permettre à l’Université d’économiser près d’un demi-million de dollars par année).

L’Université s’attaque maintenant à d’autres projets d’envergure. Cette année, elle procédera au remplacement complet des systèmes de chauffage, de ventilation et de climatisation dans six édifices. Elle souhaite également mettre en place des réseaux de récupération de la chaleur pour réduire la consommation du campus et ouvrir la voie à l’intégration d’énergies renouvelables dans un futur proche.

« En ce moment, par exemple, nous récupérons la chaleur de la principale salle de serveurs informatiques du campus pour alimenter les laboratoires de deux pavillons voisins, explique Denis Mondou. Nous étudions les façons de mettre en place un réseau de récupération de chaleur pour chaque secteur du campus du centre-ville. »


*Les sources de combustion stationnaire excluent des sources d’émissions telles que les véhicules, les produits chimiques, les réfrigérants, les engrais, le bétail et le transport aérien.

McGill célèbre le 375e anniversaire de Montréal

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:12

L’heure est à la fête alors qu’aujourd’hui marque officiellement le 375e anniversaire de la fondation de la Ville de Montréal. Pour l’occasion, McGill a tenu à souligner cet anniversaire en organisant et appuyant une série d’activités qui s’échelonneront tout au long de l’année 2017.

Depuis bientôt 200 ans, l’Université McGill est fière de figurer parmi les institutions qui ont contribué au développement et au rayonnement de la Ville de Montréal.

« Depuis sa création, l’Université McGill est une partie intégrante de Montréal et vice-versa, dit Louis Arseneault, vice-principal, Communications et Relations externes de l’Université McGill. L’une et l’autre ont contribué à leur développement et à leur succès mutuel. L’apport de nos étudiants, professeurs, chercheurs et employés à la réputation et au rayonnement de la métropole québécoise sur la scène locale, nationale et internationale est bien connu. Plus que jamais, le tandem Montréal – McGill exerce un puissant pouvoir d’attraction qui permet d’attirer chez nous les meilleurs talents dans le monde. »

Il allait donc de soi que l’Université marque le coup et souligne sa présence historique et son importance au sein de la communauté montréalaise.

« Ce 375e anniversaire de Montréal est une occasion historique de resserrer encore davantage les liens féconds qui nous unissent et de forger ensemble une vision porteuse pour l’avenir de notre ville et de notre institution », ajoute M. Arseneault.

Au menu des activités, notons La promenade Fleuve-Montagne, un parcours de 3,8 km entre le musée de Pointe-à-Callière et le pied du mont Royal. Cette ballade offrira des expériences variées, dévoilant l’histoire, le patrimoine, les paysages et les particularités culturelles des lieux traversés, notamment l’Université McGill.

L’Université s’est aussi associée à la Balade pour la Paix, un Musée à ciel ouvert, une exposition d’art public d’envergure internationale, conçue par le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal qui met à l’honneur 67 œuvres véhiculant un message de paix, à l’image des valeurs universelles d’humanisme, de tolérance et d’ouverture qui ont inspiré la réalisation d’Expo67. En plus de commémorer le 375e, l’exposition souligne aussi le 50e anniversaire d’Expo67 et le 150e du Canada.

Pour plus de détails sur les événements qui seront présentés au cours des prochains mois, consultez le calendrier des activités.

L’Université McGill remporte les honneurs pour ses efforts en développement durable

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:01

Le Fonds pour des projets durables de McGill a remporté, le 24 avril dernier, le premier prix dans la catégorie Institutions et Entreprises lors du 11e Gala de reconnaissance en environnement et développement durable.

Cette soirée, organisée par la Ville de Montréal et le Conseil régional de l’environnement, vise à souligner les projets novateurs des partenaires du Plan du développement durable de la collectivité montréalaise.

François Miller, directeur du bureau de développement durable de l’Université McGill, n’est pas peu fier de cette reconnaissance.

« On est vraiment très, très content, se réjouit-il. Ça démontre le leadership de McGill en développement durable. Comme institution, on se donne vraiment les moyens de faire une différence. »

Le fonds, créé en 2009, a été conçu afin d’instaurer une culture de développement durable au sein de l’Université McGill. Depuis sa création, l’’initiative, la plus importante du genre sur les campus universitaires en Amérique du Nord, a financé 163 projets à hauteur de 5,5 millions de dollars.

« Depuis quelques années, le fonds a contribué à tous les succès que l’Université a connus en matière de développement durable, que ce soit la production locale et durable de nourriture ou la réduction de nos émissions de gaz à effets de serre », dit fièrement M. Miller.

Le fonds dispose d’un budget annuel moyen de près de 900 000 $ et finance des projets, qu’ils soient petits ou grands, comme des jardins communautaires ou la conception de normes de constructions vertes pour l’Université. L’ensemble des étudiants, employés et professeurs peuvent faire une demande de financement auprès du Fonds pour des projets durables de McGill afin de rendre l’université plus verte, un projet à la fois.

McGill décernera 15 doctorats honorifiques

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 10:43

Les ex-premiers ministres du Canada, Paul Martin et Brian Mulroney.

Chaque année, l’Université McGill décerne un doctorat honorifique à des personnes dont le talent et l’engagement sont source d’inspiration. En mai et juin, 15 personnes recevront la plus haute distinction de l’Université. Parmi les récipiendaires, notons l’écrivain et chirurgien Atul Gawande, la cinéaste Alanis Obomsawin et deux ex-premiers ministres du Canada, Paul Martin et Brian Mulroney. Les doctorats honorifiques seront remis pendant les cérémonies de collation des grades au cours des prochaines semaines. Pour plus de renseignements sur l’horaire des remises de prix, cliquez ici. Pour en savoir davantage sur les récipiendaires, consultez leurs notices biographiques (en anglais).


Camp de jour du Conservatoire de McGill

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 10:35

Le Conservatoire de McGill offrira de nombreuses activités aux jeunes de 4 à 17 ans lors de camps de jour organisés cet été à l’École de musique Schulich de l’Université McGill. Les participants pourront ainsi égayer leurs vacances estivales grâce à des camps bilingues axés sur la musique, les arts de la scène, les arts visuels et les médias. Pour plus de détails, consultez le site des Camps de jour du Conservatoire de McGill.

May 18–19: Sing the brave song

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 15:18

By McGill Reporter Staff

Sing the Brave Song: This Isn’t Over is an original play inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is the product of a collaboration between students in the Faculty of Education; Mindy R. Carter, Assistant Professor, Integrated Studies in Education; and playwright Alayna Kolodziechuk.

Carter says when her students told her they didn’t really know that much about the Residential School experience, she concluded that perhaps there was a need to bring a full discussion of the calls to action in the 2015 report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) into the classroom.

“The TRC and issues facing Indigenous peoples in Canada are not yet broadly understood,” says Carter. “The TRC is an excellent resource that should always be considered in approaching issues between and amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

Carter has a background as an actor and director, and wanted to use that to provoke conversations about First Nations issues. She says the play was inspired by a conversation with a leading First Nations academic. “I spoke with Dr. Marie Battiste, a Mi’kmaw educator from Potlotek [pronounced Boht-loh-deck] First Nations, Nova Scotia, and full professor at the University of Saskatchewan,” she says. “We talked about a project I was working on in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with Aboriginal students and teachers using the arts. During our conversation I continually remember her guiding me to ‘create art’ and to then invite people to come and engage with it.”

Sing the brave song stars current students or recent graduates from McGill’s Education Faculty and is produced by Carter. It was written by playwright Alayna Kolodziechuk, who used survivor testimony, video archives, local and national news stories, social media commentary, court cases, and academic research on the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Kolodziechuk also included monologues written by students in the Curriculum and Instruction in Drama Education course, who use drama to shed light on the experiences of Aboriginal people in Canada.

At the end of each one-hour performance; there will be Talk Back sessions with invited guests in which the audience will be invited to share their thoughts, concerns and experiences as a part of the ongoing research dialogue.

May 18 and 19; Morrice Hall, 3485 McTavish; doors open at 12:30 p.m., curtain at 1 p.m;

Free admission but please reserve your tickets by emailing Hala Mreiwed. Get more information online.

Note: The image above is used with permission from Amanda Pierce granted to Dr. Carter as a part of a Cape Breton University-funded research project entitled ACCLAIM! (The Aboriginal Culture, Community, Literacy and Arts Integrated Media project).


Greening McGill container garden by container garden

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 12:22

Staff Community Garden Project and Sustainable Workplace Certification green up McGill

By McGill Reporter Staff

Recently, the McGill Office of Sustainability brought together some 50 staff members to get outside and garden together as part of the Staff Community Garden project. Organizers want to give McGill staff a new way to connect, learn about gardening, and get engaged in other sustainability initiatives around campus.

Shona Watt, Sustainability Progams Coordinator of the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS) said she was encouraged to see so many people turn out over their lunch break to garden. “Summer is approaching and I think we’re all excited to get our hands in the soil! I’m happy to see that so many units are interested in having bins,” she said. “It can work really well if you plant high yield crops that tend to work well: cherry tomatoes, kale, herbs, arugula, beans, peas, ground cherries, lettuce, climbing cucumbers, etc.”

Edible Campus

The staff gardens are located in the space shared with Edible Campus, which was started in 2007 by Alternatives, Santropol Roulant, and the Minimum Cost Housing Group of McGill’s School of Architecture. Edible Campus is a great example of how plantings can be woven into under-used urban spaces without getting in the way. The project received funding in two phases from the Sustainability Projects Fund to purchase containers, plants, and hold educational workshops.

Santropol relies on a team of dedicated volunteers to take care of the gardens to the east of Burnside. Midnight Kitchen, the collective on campus which gives away vegan meals, also has a section of the garden to use for its meal preparation.

Last year, Santropol invited community groups to garden a section around Burnside. The Office of Sustainability had some bins of its own, and their staff found that it was a great experience.

“Most people in Montreal don’t have a backyard or balcony to grow their own food, and it can be difficult to find healthy soil in the city. Container gardens can be easily made using recycled and durable materials, and are more portable and convenient than those in the ground. Once people get into gardening, they often see the many benefits: breathing fresh air, observing nature, and the delight of eating something you grew with your own hands.” says Watt.

Some produce from the container gardens may need to be prepared or cooked, but much of it can be plucked and eaten on the spot. Staff can share with their colleagues or donate it to local community organizations. The Office of Sustainability will organize reoccurring “lunch and learns” to share our knowledge of gardening, as well as potlucks to share the harvest.

Greening McGill’s offices

MOOS will also be rolling out a Sustainable Workplace Certification program, Sustainable Events Certification, and a staff network to share project ideas and resources.

The Sustainable Workplace Certification recognizes offices that take concrete steps toward eco-friendly and socially responsible actions. For each of the four levels of the certification, the office will receive a seal of completion as well as ideas on implementing best practices. This program gives staff the tools to make positive changes at work.

MOOS is also starting a Staff Sustainability Network to connect people across McGill to share stories, ideas, and resources of what works in their office. For those who organize events, this fall we are launching the McGill Sustainable Events certification. Event organizers will be able meet with student sustainability consultants to incorporate actions to reduce waste, purchase more ecological materials, increase physical accessibility, and encourage inclusivity. Events can be certified by McGill Sustainable Events based on the level they attain.

For more information and to learn how you can get involved in staff sustainability initiatives, contact Shona Watt at