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McGill joins “Walk for Montreal” to inaugurate new MUHC Glen site

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 10:36

Join Prof. Suzanne Fortier, Dr. David Eidelman and thousands more to mark historic event

McGill University will join Mayor Denis Coderre and thousands of other Montrealers on Saturday, June 20, 2015 to kick off the inauguration of the McGill University Health Centre’s (MUHC) new Glen site.

The Walk for Montreal is a chance for us at McGill to come together to show our pride in our city and to celebrate this milestone for the MUHC and for health care in Montreal and Quebec.

We will walk alongside a cross-section of the community, including MUHC colleagues, Montreal business leaders, community groups, schools, media personalities, sports celebrities and many others. The 3-km walk will start at Dawson College at 10 a.m. and ends at the new hospital.

All those who register will also be invited to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony and a live concert with performances by the Sam Roberts Band and Stéphanie Lapointe on the Evenko stage. The MUHC’s inauguration celebrations continue on Sunday, June 21, with a Community Festival on the grounds of the Glen site.

This is a unique chance to be part of a historic event. Moreover, participants will make a difference for patients; all proceeds from the inauguration will be used to equip the 200 family rooms in the new hospital with comfortable furniture, pillows, quilts and blankets.

Visit walkformtl.ca to sign up. A registration fee of $5 will be requested, giving you access to the ceremony and live concert. To sign up for the McGill Team, click on the “Join a Team” link and enter “McGill University” in the empty field.

More information about the hospital’s inauguration festivities is available at: muhclovesmtl.ca.

We look forward to seeing you on June 20,

Prof. Suzanne FortierPrincipal and Vice-ChancellorMcGill University David Eidelman, MDCMVice-Principal (Health Affairs) & Dean of MedicineMcGill University

Eleven new professor promotions

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 10:30

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, during its fourth meeting of 2014-15, the Board of Governors approved the Statutory Selection Committee’s recommendations to promote the following 11 associate professors to the rank of full professor:

  • Hassan Benchekroun (Economics)
  • Bernard Brais (Neurology & Neurosurgery)
  • Alyson Fournier (Neurology & Neurosurgery)
  • Fabien Gélinas (Law)
  • Juliet Johnson (Political Science)
  • Robert Koenkoop (Oncology and Medicine)
  • Matthew Lange (Sociology)
  • Stephen Liben (Pediatrics)
  • Ciriaco Piccirillo (Microbiology)
  • Réné Provost (Law)
  • Brett Thombs (Psychiatry)

Congratulations to all the professors on this important recognition of excellence in pedagogy and scholarship.

At the same meeting, Dr. Matthias Friedrich was appointed to the rank of full professor (joint) with tenure. Dr. Friedrich has been recruited from Université de Montréal, where he has held the position of tenured professor since 2011.

All 12 appointments are effective May 1, 2015.



May 5: Sport and Identity seminar

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 16:14

What role do sports play in the expression of Canadian cultural identities? In sports, we celebrate inclusion and common purpose, but the history of sports has been marked, much of the time, by prejudice and exclusion. From lacrosse through women’s hockey, Canadian sports have expressed collective resistance, protected endangered community traditions and been key sites of conflict over the character of Canadian society.  This symposium brings together five scholars whose work addresses the complex role of sports in Canada and will be hosted by Brendan Kelly, journalist for the Montreal Gazette, CBC Radio and Radio-Canada. It will take place on Tuesday, May 5, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the McGill Faculty Club (3450 McTavish). This event is free and open to the public. Reception to follow. RSVP required: misc.iecm@mcgill.ca.

Get more information.



Updates on priority action plans now available

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 16:03

Where does McGill see itself in five years? In ten? Last year, Principal Fortier set out five priority areas for the future of the University. Quarterly updates about the corresponding action plans are now online. The plans build on several strategic planning exercises conducted over recent years, as well as the Principal’s own conversations and consultations across the McGill community.



May 25: Living well beyond cancer

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 15:59

On Monday, May 25, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., hear from experts who will share their knowledge on living with cancer as a chronic disease, and from a survivor sharing his personal journey.  This promises to be an empowering evening to celebrate health, longevity and living with hope while dealing with uncertainty in life after cancer. Get more information. Sessions will be delivered in English and the Q&A period will be bilingual. Refreshments will be served. Admission is free. McIntyre Medical Sciences Building, Palmer Theatre, 6th Floor (1200 Pine Avenue West)Register online, by phone at (514) 398-4970 or by email atevents.gcrc@mcgill.ca.

Skype for business clients: Coming soon to Windows Lync

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 15:56

Recently, Microsoft released Skype for Business to replace Lync. This new version of Skype is a hybrid of the Lync client that you use at McGill and the Skype client you may use at home. IT Services will be deploying the new client to supported McGill faculty & staff users starting on May 13. For Office 365 users, Microsoft will automatically update the Lync Online service to Skype for Business Online by the end of May. Get all the details.

Pension Fund 2014 performance

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 12:26

The McGill University Pension Plan’s Balanced Account achieved an impressive gross rate of return of 10.1 per cent in 2014, capping off an excellent year for growth.

A high-level summary of the Balanced Account’s performance as of December 31, 2014 is available in the table below:

Balanced Account Performance

Asset class

Annualized returns

% of total holdings

Equity Pool (stocks)



Fixed Income -Pool (e.g. bonds)



Total Growth:




On April 27, the McGill University Pension Plan published its 48-page Annual Report for 2014, which provides more extensive details about the Pension Plan’s holdings and performance.

Annual meeting and vote

All plan members are invited to the May 1 Pension Plan Annual Meeting, where the plan’s performance will be discussed further. Members also have until 12:00 p.m. on May 1 to cast their ballot in favour of or against voting procedures to be used when electing member representatives on the Pension Administration Committee.

McGill’s pension fund, worth about $1.4 billion, includes over 9500 current and former McGill employees.



Your pension: Friday vote and Annual Meeting

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 12:21

Photo: John Kelsey

Annual Pension Meeting

If you are a member of the McGill University Pension Plan and want to learn more about how your pension funds are being invested, you may want to attend the Annual Meeting of Plan Members, being held at noon on Friday, May 1 in Leacock 232.

Active members also have until the beginning of the meeting to vote online regarding the rules that apply for the election of member representatives on the Pension Administration Committee, or can present their paper ballot at the meeting instead.

What you’re voting on:

Each year, members of the McGill pension plan (both current and retired) are eligible to vote on the “continuance of voting procedures,” which has two parts:

  1. Proxy votes
    The current proxy vote system allows members to have someone vote on their behalf. This is great for people who don’t plan to attend pension meetings in person, but who would still like to have a say.
  2. Proportional Voting
    This system is used in the election of representatives to the Pension Administration Committee. The number of votes each member receives is in direct proportion to their account value. The number of votes are determined as follows: :

    1. Pension plan members who haven’t yet settled are entitled to one vote for each dollar of savings in their pension fund at year-end.
    2. Retired members who receive McGill pension annuities are entitled to nine votes for each dollar of annuity payment received.

Only one nomination was received for the available Academic Staff Representative position; therefore, Professor Julia Scott will be acclaimed for a three-year term and no vote is required.

These measures will be determined in a single vote (i.e. a “FOR” vote supports both of them). The results will be announced at the Annual Meeting on Friday.

When, where and how to vote:

If you are an active member of the McGill University Pension Plan, you have until noon on Friday, May 1 to vote online. If you’ve received a paper ballot, you can submit it in person at the Friday assembly. If you vote online you’ll be voting by proxy, which involves making two decisions:

  1. Choose your proxy
    You have the option to appoint Lynne B. Gervais (Chair of the Pension Administration Committee) or John D’Agata (Secretary of the Pension Administration Committee) to vote on your behalf, or name another plan member who will attend the assembly.
    Once you’ve chosen a proxy, you’ll opt to vote either “FOR” or “AGAINST” Continuance.

What else is happening at the Annual Meeting?

In addition to tallying and announcing the results of this vote, the Pension Plan members in attendance will also:

  • Acclaim one Academic Staff representative to the Pension Administration Committee;
  • Receive the financial report of the McGill University Pension Plan for 2014 and the independent auditor’s report thereon;
  • Receive the stewardship report of the Pension Administration Committee;
  • Receive the investment performance report of the McGill University Pension Plan for 2014; and
  • Conduct any other business that is properly brought before the assembly.

HPV vaccine shows early benefits in young girls

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 10:57

Ontario data examined by Queen’s, McGill researchers

By Cynthia Lee

Data from Ontario show early benefits from the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in young girls, according to a new study by researchers at Queen’s University and McGill.

The HPV vaccine, which protects against four types of HPV shown to cause cervical cancer and anogenital warts, is offered free through school-based programs to young girls across Canada. Despite the fact the vaccine is free, vaccine rates are lower than expected in a number of regions, in part because parents perceive their daughter’s level of sexual activity as low at young ages.

“We observed a large and significant reduction in cervical dysplasia, a precursor to cervical cancer, in girls as young as 14-17 years,” say Leah Smith and Linda Lévesque, researchers with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) at Queen’s University.

McGill professors Jay Kaufman, from the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health (EBOH), and Erin Strumpf, from EBOH and the Department of Economics, co-authored the study.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, also found the vaccine is starting to decrease genital warts in this population.

“The fact that these benefits were observed in such a young age group strengthens current recommendations that vaccination should not be delayed,” says Dr. Smith, lead author on the study and a former McGill PhD student.

This study followed 260,493 girls, half of whom were eligible for Ontario’s publicly funded Grade 8 HPV vaccination program in its first two years (2007/08 and 2008/09).

Researchers found that among the 2,436 cases of cervical dysplasia documented between Grades 10 to 12, 44 percent fewer cases occurred in eligible girls who received the vaccine. The research showed that one case of cervical dysplasia was prevented for every 175 eligible girls vaccinated.

“Although the vast majority of cases prevented by the vaccine would not have progressed to cervical cancer, given the burden of cervical dysplasia on the emotional and physical well-being of girls as well as on the health-care system, these early reductions are nevertheless of great importance,” says Dr. Lévesque.


Royal Victoria Hospital transferred to Glen site

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 16:49

A patient transferring from the Royal Victoria Hospital is greeted at the Glen site. / Photo: Pierre Dubois

By McGill Reporter Staff

The eagle has landed.

On Sunday, April 26, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) pulled off the largest hospital move ever carried out in Canada, as 154 inpatients (139 adults and 15 babies) were safely transferred from the Royal Victoria Hospital to the Glen site. This move, which lasted 5 hours 20 minutes, was one of the key redeployment operations for the MUHC this year. The operation went off without a hitch.

Planning the move, which has been described as one of the most complex in North American history, began two years ago. In all, some 2,500 staff members working in colour-coded teams assisted during the day, with a fleet of over 30 ambulances and specially adapted medi-cars transporting patients from the RVH to their new digs.

Some 2,500 staff members worked in colour-coded teams to help pull off the complex move without a hitch. / Photo: Pierre Dubois

“Safety has been our number-one priority. Thanks to ongoing planning and excellent teamwork, we are proud to say that all of our patients are now comfortably settled in at our new Glen site facilities,” said Jean-Marc Troquet, Chief of the Adult Site Emergency Departments and Co-Chair of the Coordination Committee for Adult Patient Transfers. “The success of this move is the result of two years of preparation.

“The skills of MUHC employees and doctors, staff from Health Care Relocations (HCR), Urgences-santé technicians, and all of our volunteers played a big role in this seamless transfer,” he added. “Command centres at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Glen site coordinated everyone’s roles, and this has helped ensure the continuity and quality of patient care.”

A fleet of ambulances stand ready to begin transferring patients from the Royal Vic to the Glen site on April 26. / Photo: Pierre Dubois

But the day wasn’t only about the move. Despite the hiccup-free success of the relocation, the happiest event of the day occurred at 6:55 a.m. when Marie Brilleaud, the Glen’s first-ever patient, gave birth to a healthy 3.6-kilogram son, Arthur Perreault – the first baby of what promises to be many delivered at the Glen.

With 500 individual rooms, two emergency departments, and over 50 specialized services, the Glen site is one of the most innovative university health care centres in North America. Designed specifically for patient well-being, the new hospital will also let interdisciplinary teams work together to share their knowledge, discoveries and resources to advance medicine.

“This new chapter for the MUHC is a historic event. I am convinced that the MUHC’s future is in good hands, and that our investment in innovation with this new cutting-edge institution will pay off with great discoveries,” said Dr. Ewa Sidorowicz, Associate Director General, Medical Affairs and Director of Professional Services at the MUHC.

The Glen site’s clinical activities for adult care will gradually resume as we prepare for the upcoming move of the Montreal Children’s Hospital on May 24. The redeployment will be complete with the move of the Montreal Chest Institute and some services from the Montreal General Hospital on June 14.

The state-of-the-art Glen site has two emergency rooms and 500 individual rooms for patients. / Photo courtesy of the MUHC


We’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 14:51

Not all file storage services are created equal

By Gabrielle Krim

No one can deny that cloud services offer the most affordable solution for file storage. Never before has our consumption of video and audio been higher and we seem to have an insatiable need for more storage space. The packrats among us are no doubt thrilled about the virtually limitless and often free space provided by the cloud – it’s like having a spare room in a magic dimension that lets you keep a much as you like without seeing the mess.

And let’s not forget the convenience of being able to access our data from anywhere, on virtually any device that’s Internet-enabled. Yes, these benefits are all well and good for personal files, such as family vacation photos, music and cooking recipes, but what about when it comes to Institutional data? The security of data in the cloud depends on the terms of service offered by the provider, and not all cloud services are equal.

McGill has a responsibility to protect institutional data. Ghilaine Roquet, McGill’s Chief Information Officer, is very much aware of this duty. When negotiating McGill’s contract with Microsoft for Office 365, including OneDrive for Business cloud storage, she made sure it would guarantee the protection of Intellectual Property and would comply with data privacy laws of Quebec and Canada.

McGill has known for some time that faculty and staff were using self-acquired cloud services both for personal use and to collaborate with colleagues across the globe. While we were preparing to provide faculty and staff with OneDrive for Business cloud storage – available since April 2015 – “we knew we needed to give the community some guidance on what institutional data should be hosted where. The Cloud Data Storage Directive was born out of this need,” Roquet said.

The Cloud Directive identifies different types of institutional data – Regulated, Protected, and Public – and dictates which types can be stored in self-provisioned cloud services, such as Google Drive, Dropbox vs. McGill-provisioned cloud services, such as OneDrive For Business.

The main points of the Directive can be summarized as follows:

  • Regulated Institutional Data is data regulated by laws or governing bodies, for example personal information, student records, medical records, bank/credit card data, and the like. These cannot be stored in self-acquired/consumer-level cloud services, nor in the current OneDrive for Business offering.
  • Protected Institutional Data includes data that should remain internal to McGill, but is not regulated by laws. This category includes material such as operation procedures, project documents, etc. This type of data may be stored in a McGill-approved cloud service, e.g., OneDrive, as long as the master copy of the data resides on McGill premises, in a system that is backed up regularly. It may not be stored on self-acquired cloud services (see exception below for Research).
  • Research Protected Institutional Data may also be stored in a self-acquired cloud service, as long as the user has performed due diligence to ensure the security of the data.
  • Public Institutional Data is data that is already in the public domain, for example available on public Internet sites, journals, television, etc. This type of data can be stored in self-acquired or McGill-provisioned cloud services.
  • If you are currently storing any institutional data in a self-acquired cloud service, it must be removed or migrated to a McGill-approved cloud service.
  • McGill’s Content Management System, Documentum, is an appropriate on-premises file storage solution for master copies of all institutional data.

While it’s important to keep McGill Institutional Data out of cloud services that are not secure, the directive also aims to ensure this data does not end up on local computers and other devices that could potentially be compromised. To avoid this situation, the Directive states that if Regulated or Protected Institutional Data is stored in the cloud, it may only be synched to McGill-owned, password-protected devices. This restriction does not apply to Apps that allow access to cloud data while connected, without storing a copy on the device, as long as the communication channel is encrypted.

The best way to make use of cloud storage services while keeping institutional data safe is to understand and follow the Directive. The official version of the Directive can be found on the Secretariat’s website.

Additional Resources:

Cloud data storage companion document – includes the text of the directive, with examples and comments

Videos on the Cloud Data Storage Directive and cloud computing security awareness

OneDrive cloud storage service


End of an era as Reporter to go online-only

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 14:04

The McGill Reporter first hit the stands in 1968. The last print edition will be issued on May 29, 2015.

By Doug Sweet

On Friday, May 29, 2015, The McGill Reporter will publish our final print edition, featuring coverage of Spring Convocation and other University events. From that point on, we’ll be online only.

This is part of the evolution of The Reporter, which began publishing in 1968 as a weekly, and moved to fortnightly publication some years later, before becoming a primarily online publication, with a quarterly print product, in the fall of 2012.

But that doesn’t mean McGillians will be starved for information about what’s happening at the University. In recent years, readership of The Reporter’s website has climbed steadily, from about 15,000 page views a month three years ago to nearly 50,000 page views a month today. And, given the constant churn of content, far more stories are going up on the website every month than was achieved “in the old days” of fortnightly publication. At the same time, we had been reducing our print run and it was becoming evident from the number of copies left in the racks that people preferred online delivery to print.

In the more than 1,400,000 page views we’ve had since November 2012, we’ve had some notably enormous stories in recent years online, including a piece about some remarkable brain mapping (45,000-plus page views), a story about McGill’s Hult Prize winners (20,000-plus) and two stories have hit 12,000 (a piece on global warming and one on our latest Rhodes scholars).

“We’re telling more stories to more people,” said Olivier Marcil, Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations), whose department produces The Reporter. “I am very happy with the steady, sometimes dramatic, increases we’ve seen in online readership and I think that underlines the fact that we are moving with the times and delivering news about McGill in a format people are comfortable with and prefer.

“We will save more in terms of print costs, continue to reduce our ecological footprint and will be able to make improvements to the website that should make it even more attractive to our readers – and advertisers – in the months to come.”

Reporter Editor in Chief Neale McDevitt said he’s been surprised by the support we’ve had from readers in the transition to online-only publication.

“I thought we’d hear a lot more from readers who preferred print to online, but the fact is we only had a few complaints. I thought I’d be one of those who missed print, because I’ve worked in print publications for decades, but I was pleasantly surprised to get even more of a kick watching the number of readers go up and up and up.

“It’s really a thrill to know you’re reaching so many more people, more frequently, with more content. And if we weren’t delivering the kind of content people are looking for, I don’t think our numbers would have climbed so rapidly.”

The Reporter’s change to an online-only format is part of a growing trend across North American college and university campuses, as documented by such major journalistic organizations as the Poynter Institute. “A growing number of papers are cutting or considering cutting the number of print editions they publish each week or month,” Poynter reported on its website last fall. “Others are trimming their page sizes or reducing the number of copies or pages produced for each issue.

Along with the what’snew@mcgill and what’snewstudents@mcgill electronic newsletters, plus The Reporter’s Twitter feed, Reporter stories are pushed out to a wide audience, which is reflected in an uptick in website hits each time those newsletters go out, McDevitt said.

And The Reporter’s website has become the go-to place for up-to-the-minute news about emergencies on campus.

Photo galleries, including those from major events like Convocation, major stories about administrative or budgetary matters, big research stories and sports coverage are among the more popular items on the website. The ability to include video was unimaginable in the print era, and there’s also more opportunity for comment and conversations amongst readers via the website.






Arctic beetles may be ideal marker of climate change

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 07:50

Sensitivity of insects to climate makes them ideal for long-term biodiversity monitoring in north

By Katherine Gombay

Wanna know about climate change? Ask a beetle.

Scientists have been logging changes in weather patterns and temperatures in the Arctic for some time. Now they need to find ways to measure how these changes in climate are affecting biodiversity. One of the best places to look may be down at our feet, at beetles. That`s because, as a McGill research team discovered after doing the first large-scale survey of Arctic beetles, these six-legged critters are not only abundant in number but also diverse in feeding habits and what they eat is closely linked to the latitude in which they are found.

As a result, McGill researchers believe that Arctic beetles may prove to be ideal markers of climate change, since any changes in climate that affect the soil, plants and animals on which the beetles depend are likely to be quickly reflected in changes in the beetle communities.

Where you live is what you eat

A team of researchers led by Prof. Chris Buddle and Dr. Crystal Ernst of McGill’s Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences, were able to identify more than 460 different species of Arctic beetles in locations ranging from the edge of the boreal forest in Northern Ontario to Ellesmere Island in the far north. More significantly, they found that there were clear differences in what beetles are found where along this north-south gradient, and the ecological roles they fulfilled differed depending on the latitude in which they lived.

“Depending on the latitude and the temperature, Arctic beetles perform a range of ecological functions such as pollinating or feeding on plants, preying on other insects, and breaking down decaying matter,” says Ernst, who is the first author on the study published today in PLOS ONE. “In the far north, there are generally very high numbers of predators and far fewer beetles which eat plants, while further south the reverse is generally true.”

Beetles are sensitive types

The discovery that Arctic beetles may be especially sensitive to temperature has implications for future climate change monitoring.

“As temperatures in northern regions rise or become more variable, there is a strong possibility that the beetle communities will undergo significant changes in response,” says Buddle, the lead researcher. “Whether these changes will have positive or negative effects on Arctic ecosystems and the other animals and plants living there remains to be seen, but it is clear that beetles’ sensitivity to climate make them ideal targets for long-term biodiversity monitoring in the far north.”

Read the full article in PLOS ONE



Flameproof falcons and hawks

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 07:16

Most polluted bird on record found in Vancouver

By Katherine Gombay

A Cooper’s hawk, found in Greater Vancouver, is the most polluted wild bird that has been found anywhere in the world. A team of Canadian researchers made this startling discovery while analyzing liver samples from birds of prey that were discovered either injured or dead in the Vancouver area. The levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the contaminated Cooper’s hawk were 196 parts per million, significantly higher than those recorded in birds found either in cities in California or in an electronic waste site in China. PBDEs are a group of chemicals that act as flame retardants and were once used widely in computers, stereos, televisions, vehicles, carpets and furniture.

Although many of the PBDEs have been banned since the 2000s in Canada, they continue to accumulate in landfill sites where people dispose of PBDE-rich items. In British Columbia’s Fraser River delta, for example, the quantity of PBDEs has doubled every four years over the past four decades. This can have a significant effect on the bird populations that live nearby.

“Many animals, including coyotes, eagles and hawks benefit from the excess food in our cities. A downside is the high levels of pollution. The levels of flame retardants in starlings, a favourite prey of hawks, which nested near the landfill site were fifteen times higher than levels in starlings found elsewhere in Vancouver,” says Prof. Kyle Elliott, of McGill’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences, one of the authors of the study which was recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. “We were surprised to see such high levels of contaminants in what I think of as ‘green’ city. We can only hope that because many forms of PBDEs have now been banned and the levels of these contaminants are rapidly disappearing from herons and cormorants in Vancouver, the same will be true for other bird species.”



Fostering a lifelong love of learning

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 16:24

Anurag Dhir (left), SEDE’s Community Engagement Coordinator, helps students perform an experiment during a workshop given by McGill’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Group. / Photo: Andrew Kittredge

Young students get a taste of McGill

By Jean Murray

A line of eager students formed outside SNAX – the student-run cafe in the Arts building – expectantly waiting to grab a cookie in between classes.

But these were no ordinary McGill students; they were 6 to 12 year olds, some so small that their red McGill shirts looked like dresses. They came from Verdun and Lasalle for the day to experience a day in the life of a McGill student.

Elementary school student Sophia Melgar tries a Mars Rover simulator with the guidance of a volunteer from McGill Robotics. / Photo: Andrew Kittredge

As part of a program developed through a partnership between the University’s Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) Office, the Lester B. Pearson School Board, and McGill Enrolment Services – with generous funding from the T.R. Meighen Family Foundation – these students participated in an event called My Day @ McGill. Now in its fourth year, My Day @ McGill brought over 100 elementary school students to the University over two days on April 9-10.

Also on hand were McGill students from the SEDE Office’s Homework Zone: a school-based mentoring program that pairs University volunteers with elementary students for homework help and pyscho-social support. My Day @ McGill offers the young mentees the chance to come to their mentors’ school for the day – and to get excited about post-secondary education.

Of course, the focus of the day was as much on fun as it was on learning. As Chris Kusuhara, a Homework Zone volunteer and My Day @ McGill tour guide, noted, “The best part was seeing friendship between the kids. They help one another and learn from each other and I hope they stay friends for a long time.”

A young boy learns about reflexes during a workshop put on by Medicine students. / Photo: Andrew Kittredge

The day consisted of workshops and tours, all designed to balance education with fun. Spanning a variety of disciplines, the workshops were given by a wide range of presenters including people from the Department of Chemistry; the Astrophysics and Cosmology Group; students from Medicine and Engineering; McGill Robotics; First Peoples’ House; and Midnight Kitchen.

My Day @ McGill not only presented these young students with a slice of McGill student life, it also embodied the spirit of community. With multiple departments represented, as well as student groups – both academic and non-academic – the day showcased a variety of McGill’s offerings.

Every Verdun student was supplied with a t-shirt, courtesy of the McGill bookstore and a free snack provided by SNAX. And what better way to end the day than with ice cream courtesy of Frostbite in McConnell.

As the organizers noted, the day was more than just a tour. It was a chance to bring together a variety of diverse McGill groups with a shared goal to open the eyes and minds of young students, and help them to discover and to nurture a passion for lifelong learning.

Learn more about My Day @ McGill.

Three students from Verdun Elementary School explore the Cyberthèque. / Photo: Andrew Kittredge


Hannah Taylor: Wrong turn sets her on the right path

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 13:17

Hannah Taylor says it doesn’t take much to help a homeless person. “Give them some change, buy them a coffee, just say ‘Hello. How are you?’ Even the smallest gestures acknowledge that they are people too.” Photo courtesy of the Ladybug Foundation.

By Neale McDevitt

A mother driving with her five-year-old daughter in the backseat takes a wrong turn and ends up in a dark back alley, forever altering the young girl’s life. It sounds like the ominous beginning of dramatic film but quite the opposite is true – this is a real-life story about a little girl whose unwavering compassion for human beings serves as an inspiration to us all.

The little girl in the backseat of that car was Hannah Taylor, now a 19-year-old Arts undergrad finishing her first year at McGill. Taylor remembers that fateful day like it was yesterday. “It was December in Winnipeg so it was freezing cold and snow covered. I looked out my window and I saw a man searching through a garbage dumpster for food,” she says. “I asked my mother why he was doing that and she said he had to do that to eat.”

“I had never seen homelessness and I was struck by it,” she says. “My five-year-old heart just wouldn’t let it go.”

And when Taylor says she wouldn’t let it go, she means it. She questioned her parents almost daily for a year. Why did people have to live in the street? Where did they sleep? Wasn’t there enough food and homes for everyone? Why didn’t anyone help?

“I worried about this man and, as I learned more about homelessness in Winnipeg and in Canada, I began to worry about everyone living in those conditions.”

One night, Taylor – who had just turned six – asked her mother another question about homelessness as she was being tucked in for the night. “My mom said to me, ‘You know, Hannah, maybe if you do something about it, your heart won’t feel so bad.’”

And that set the wheels in motion, wheels that, 13 years later, show no signs of stopping.

Hannah Taylor has been canvassing politicians and business leaders for their support ever since she was a young girl. / Photo courtesy of the Ladybug Foundation

Taylor did a presentation about homelessness to her Grade One class and organized a campaign to collect food, coffee and clothing for a local shelter. To her delight, her classmates matched her enthusiasm. “I saw that people wanted to help – they just don’t know how to start,” says Taylor. “In the case of my Grade One class, when they were given the opportunity to help, everyone immediately came up with their own great ideas.”

But for Taylor, this was not a one-and-done project. Buoyed by the success of her fledgling initiative, she kept at it, raising both money for and awareness for a cause that was so close to her heart. Over the ensuing years, she met with business leaders and politicians, flew around the country for speaking engagements and collected money in jars decorated with ladybugs – her good luck charms.

Jars of money become a Foundation

In 2004, Taylor had raised enough money to launch The Ladybug Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation that support other charities across Canada in providing food, shelter and support for the homeless. She was eight. Today, Taylor is the CEO of the Lady Bug Foundation, which to date, has raised over $4 million for dozens of frontline soup kitchens, emergency shelters, food banks and youth shelters.

Also in 2004, Taylor founded her second registered charity – The Ladybug Foundation Education Program, a kindergarten to grade 12 classroom resource designed to teach kids how to affect change in their own community, country and throughout the world. “When I speak at schools, I see kids have that light bulb moment where they say ‘Hey if she can do it, so can I.’ We don’t give kids enough credit, but they do care and they are driven to help change things. They just need the tools.”

Hannah Taylor with Governor General and former Principal of McGill, David Johnston.

And Taylor knows that, in order to effectuate change, the best tool one can have is knowledge. “Education – formal and experiential – is the key,” she says. “That’s why so much of the work we do with the Ladybug Foundation is to raise awareness. Before people can do, they need to know.”

Which made McGill the logical place for Taylor to pursue her studies. “It has such a great reputation – and rightfully so,” she says. “I love it here. Classes are always great and I’ve met so many wonderful people,” she says. “So far I absolutely love the university experience.”

Since starting at McGill last September, Taylor has had to curtail her Ladybug Foundation activities somewhat in order to concentrate on her studies – although she has still managed to do a few speaking engagements via Skype. Having declared her major in International Development, States and Governance, he plan is to get a Law degree. Not surprisingly, she wants to work in human rights.

Find your passion

In talking with Taylor about her life’s work, one can see that this is something she needs to do. “Everyone has to find something that they are passionate about, whether it is being a fantastic father, or working for the environment or loving your job as a bankruptcy and insolvency lawyer,” says Taylor. “My passion is helping people, especially homeless people. It’s just something my heart made me do and it’s like breathing – it doesn’t stop. Some people spend their lives trying to find that passion but I got lucky and I found it when I was five.”

That passion is never more obvious than when Taylor discusses the people she has met in her coast-to-coast travels.

“When things get especially tough or busy, I call him and we talk,” says Hannah Taylor of her friend Rick Adams. “It reminds me that work like this matters.”

She talks about watching Brian, a homeless man at a Winnipeg shelter, give his new vest – that he had just received for Christmas – to another man who was distraught. “He said ‘You need this more than me,’” says Taylor. “Despite how hard life has been on him, he was so generous and kind. How can you not be inspired by that?”

Then there was the time Taylor took a tour of a Toronto children’s shelter and ended up hanging out with the kids for much of the day. “I was getting ready to leave and this one tiny girl who had been there the whole time but hadn’t said anything stepped out from behind the crowd and gave me a hug. She said ‘Before today I thought nobody loved me. Now I know you do.’

And then there is Rick. “Rick is a former residential school student who was homeless for about 25 years. He now has a place to stay and is retired from a job, so he’s doing well,” she says. “He is so wise and special and kind and loving. When things get especially tough or busy, I call him and we talk and it reminds me how much work like this matters.

“I’m lucky to have such an amazing friend.”

Learn more about the Ladybug Foundation

Watch the 2007 NFB Documentary, Hannah’s Story


McGill’s next budget: Cost-cutting measures maintained

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 11:01

Provost Anthony C. Masi told Senate that McGill will post a $4.3-million surplus for FY2014-15.

By Mark Ordonselli

While McGill’s cost-cutting measures will remain in place, staff salary commitments will be honoured and work will soon begin to modernize McGill’s buildings and IT infrastructure, Provost Anthony C. Masi told Senate in his annual budget presentation on April 22.

Until a few weeks ago, McGill was projecting a $7-million deficit in FY2014-15, due mostly to the $20 million in cuts imposed by the Quebec government last fall. But in March, the government re-assessed the number of full-time-equivalent McGill students counted in previous years. “They admitted that they owed us more money,” Masi said, and transferred some $12.2 million to McGill.

Thanks largely to that cash infusion, McGill will post a modest $4.3-million surplus for FY2014-15 – around 0.6 per cent of McGill’s operating budget. Masi warned, however, that “this is not a hard number, because we still haven’t arrived at year-end, and because there will be expenses in the month of April that will see that number go down – if not to zero then maybe into negative territory.”

If, when all expenses are accounted for, McGill does indeed complete FY2014-15 with a surplus, it will be automatically used to help pay down the university’s accumulated deficit, which currently hovers just below $100 million.

Masi told Senate that the current fiscal year, which ends on April 30, was “the third year in which we’ve had major cuts, and we’re anticipating more for next year.” The new Quebec budget, tabled March 26, included some $70 million of new cuts to Quebec’s university network for FY2015-16. Of that amount, McGill expects its share to be approximately $11 million.

Despite the difficult financial environment, Masi noted that McGill will honour all its salary policy commitments for FY2015-16, at a cost of $22 million. As well, the university will begin tackling an estimated $1 billion-plus in deferred maintenance needs, to update its buildings and IT infrastructure.

The hope is that some of this deferred maintenance work will be supported by donors and government grants, but it will also require $400 million in loans, to be repaid over some 40 years. Masi maintained that despite the expense, the need for more modern labs and classrooms, better digital networks, more efficient heating systems and other infrastructure has become critical. “Deferred maintenance,” he said, “can no longer be deferred.”

Masi also announced more money for student aid in each of the next five years, with the total annual aid budget expected to reach $31.9 million by FY2019-20.

Speaking of the FY2015-16 fiscal year, Masi said, “this is the first time in a decade that we’re thinking that this year’s amount will be less than last year’s – slightly, but it’s going down.”

As a result, he said, the cost-cutting measures already in place will be maintained through the coming fiscal year and possibly beyond. They include:

  • A freeze on external hires for administrative and support staff positions
  • The central recuperation of salaries liberated when employees leave their positions
  • The suspension of overtime payments, except for essential work
  • A re-design of the policy and practices governing job re-classifications
  • Changes to the policy governing how units’ budget surpluses carry forward from year to year
  • Cuts to units’ budgets: a 3-per-cent average cut for administrative units (based on FY2013-14 budgets), and a 2-per-cent average cut for faculties

Even with these measures in place, Masi projected a $4.7-million deficit for FY2015-16.

“We’ve managed well, but every unit has to make some sacrifices in order for us to meet our objectives,” he said. “Every time we decide not to cut from one unit, we’re asking another unit to pick up the slack. Everything we do is a trade-off.”

McGill will explore other ways of cutting costs as well, like lobbying to ease provincial reporting requirements. It’s estimated that McGill spends more than $1 million each year “just filling out forms for the Quebec government.”

Discussing the university funding situation in Quebec, Masi insisted that the provincial government must either reinvest in universities, or allow them greater flexibility in finding alternative revenue streams.

“I hope no one thinks that prolonged austerity is the road to prosperity,” Masi said. “At some point, reinvestments will have to be made. You cannot continue austerity measures and hope that this is somehow going to lead to a brighter future. It won’t.”

Read Provost Masi’s McGill University Budget FY2016 presentation to Senate

Read more budget-related stories


McGill lauds research funding in latest federal budget

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 20:07

By McGill Reporter Staff

Including significant spending on university-level research in the latest federal budget brought Finance Minister Joe Oliver (BA61/BCL64) some kudos from Canada’s universities this week.

The first balanced budget in seven years, with a projected surplus of $1.4 billion in 2015-16, includes an investment of $1.33 billion spread out over six years, beginning in 2017-18, in research infrastructure. These funds are intended to help to train, attract and retain top researchers at Canadian universities.

“The budget includes a significant investment of $1.33 billion over six years in research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation,” Principal Suzanne Fortier said. “This investment is the second significant measure announced by the federal government in two years, after the creation of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund in Budget 2014 — a $1.5 billion investment in support of research and innovation.”

The first round of CFREF funding, some $350 million, will be announced in July.

McGill, along with other Canadian universities and colleges, will continue to work closely with the federal government toward the development of a Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy, Prof. Fortier said. “This announced strategy is much needed. Cutting-edge research infrastructure is critical to training, attracting and retaining talented students and researchers, and to pursuing promising new areas of research.”

In a report to Senate and the Board of Governors Wednesday, Provost Anthony C. Masi said Oliver’s latest budget also will provide $105 million over five years (beginning in 2015-16) to CANARIE, Canada’s high-speed research and education network, and $100 million to support the new digital research infrastructure.

“The government announced an additional $46 million per year for four years, starting in 2016-17, to the three federal granting councils, most of which is targeted to specific initiatives,” Masi explained in his note. These include:

• $15 million per year to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council ($10 million for collaborations between industry and universities and $5 million for industry-driven research initiatives at polytechnics and colleges)

  • $15 million per year to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research ($13 million for the expansion of the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research)
  • $7 million per year to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for its Partnership Grants
  • $9 million per year to the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research

There are also measures to help students. “Starting in 2016-2017, in-study student income will be omitted from the Canada Student Loans Program needs assessment process. An estimated 87,000 students will receive increased loan amounts as a result of this initiative, which will cost $116 million over four years,” Masi said in his report.

The government will also allocate $56.4 million over four years, starting in 2016–17, to the Mitacs Accelerate program in support of graduate-level industry-related research and development internships.

“We are pleased to see the commitment to funding top-notch research facilities and infrastructure, such as to the CANARIE network and the CFI program, which will assist researchers who use them to do basic research,” said Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “These investments will help us to maintain our position as a leading contributor to research and scholarship in Canada and around the world.”

The association representing Canada’s universities and colleges was also pleased with the increases in research funding.

“Funding for research delivers long-term benefits to Canada’s society and our economy,” said David Barnard, chair of the 97-member strong Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and president of the University of Manitoba. “Investments in the Canada Foundation for Innovation will keep more top Canadian researchers here, attract world-leading international talent, train the next generation of discoverers and innovators, and enable us to pursue promising new areas of research – where Canada can lead.”

The budget also confirmed the previously announced $243.5-million investment over 10 years for the new Thirty Metre Telescope, an international observatory to be located in Hawaii.

Other budget measures included:

  • $119.2 million over two years, starting in 2015–16, to the National Research Council’s industry-partnered research and development activities
  • $45 million over five years, starting in 2015-16 for TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics
  • $22.8 million in 2016-17 for Grand Challenges Canada in support of global health

“Over the next weeks, in collaboration with the Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) and the Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance), my office will analyze the details of this budget and its impact on McGill’s finances and research enterprise,” Masi told Senate and the Board in his report.



McGill duo nominated for CIS athlete of the year

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 15:59

By Earl Zukerman and Michel Belanger

Two student-athletes from McGill – basketball star Mariam Sylla and hockey player Cedric McNicoll – will represent the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec among the eight national finalists for the 23rd annual BLG Awards, today, April 22, by CIS and the law firm of Borden Ladner Gervais.

The BLG Awards were established in 1993 to recognize the top female and male athletes from universities affiliated with CIS.

Sylla, a 6-foot-1 centre who emigrated to Montreal 10 years ago from Conakry, Guinea, guided the RSEQ champion Martlets to the best result in program history at the CIS championship, a silver-medal finish. In league action, the pharmacology junior averaged a “double-double” with 12.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and was rewarded with the conference MVP trophy and a spot on the first all-Canadian team.

McNicoll helped the Redmen top the Ontario University Athletics East division standings but the team fell 61 seconds short of qualifying for the CIS championship tourney with an overtime loss at Windsor. In league play, the third-year management student tallied 34 points in 25 games en route to meriting OUA East MVP honours and CIS second-team all-Canadian status.

“I decided to leave the pro game because I wanted to finish my education,” said McNicoll, a 5-foot-10, 186-pound centre born in Longueuil, Que., and raised in nearby Boucherville. He just concluded his fifth year of CIS eligibility after playing three seasons at the professional level, including stints in the American Hockey League and the East Coast league. “The management program at McGill was strong and the hockey program is a high-level one so it was a good match for me.”

On Monday, May 4, the eight national nominees will be honoured at the Martha Cohen Theatre in Calgary. The female and male winners will receive a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship, while all finalists will return home with a commemorative gold ring and a watch from Timex, the official supplier of CIS.

This year’s event will mark the 20th presentation of the awards gala in Calgary. Over the years, the event has also held been held in Toronto (2009, 2013) and Vancouver (2011). The 2015 ceremony will air nationally later this May on Sportsnet.

Although the 2015 recipients will be determined by the Canadian Athletic Foundation, a not-for-profit board which has selected the winners for the past 22 years, the general public is encouraged to vote as part as an online-voting pilot project. Fans can vote through the following websites:

“We are extremely excited to be hosting the 23rd BLG Awards in Calgary,” said Doug Mitchell, national co-chair of BLG. “We continue to be amazed by the talents and accomplishments of these outstanding athletes. Each year, as we follow the past winners and hear about their accomplishments or what they are involved in, we realize how important their university sports background has been to them. We congratulate the universities who have provided the great education and athletic programs for these students to succeed in their careers.”

“The BLG Awards represent the epitome of what it means to be a student-athlete, and this year’s nominees more than meet that standard,” said Thérèse Quigley, president of CIS. “Not only are these eight extraordinary athletes, each one is also a leader in the classroom and in the community.”

Joining Sylla among the 2015 nominees for the Jim Thompson Trophy presented to the female BLG Award recipient are rugby player Emma Taylor from St. Francis Xavier University, soccer player Jessica King from Trinity Western University, as well as basketball standout Korissa Williams from the University of Windsor.

On the men’s side, joining McNicoll among the finalists for the Doug Mitchell Trophy are soccer player Justin Maheu from Cape Breton University, cross country and track runner Ross Proudfoot from the University of Guelph and football player Andrew Buckley from the University of Calgary.


Kaspi, Lock elected to American Academy

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 14:47

By McGill Reporter Staff

Vicky Kaspi and Margaret Lock have been voted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the most prestigious honorary societies in the United States. As announced earlier today, April 22, the pair are part of a 2015 cohort that includes some of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts.

“We are honoured to elect a new class of extraordinary women and men to join our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “Each new member is a leader in his or her field and has made a distinct contribution to the nation and the world. We look forward to engaging them in the intellectual life of this vibrant institution.”

“McGill congratulates Professors Lock and Kaspi on this very prestigious honour, given to the most influential and innovative thought-leaders and in the arts and sciences,” said Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “Professor Lock’s scholarship in anthropology of medicine and biomedical technologies, and Professor Kaspi’s research about pulsars, neutron stars and magnetars exemplifies the academic excellence and vision that enriches our university and society in general.”

Vicky Kaspi / Photo: Owen Egan

Kaspi, a world-renowned astrophysicist known for her cutting-edge work on neutron stars and pulsars, is having a good April. Earlier this month, she was named the winner of the 2015 Killam Prize in the Natural Sciences, one of Canada’s most prestigious awards for academic-career achievement.

The Austin, Texas native is considered the world’s leading researcher of magnetars, a hot topic in astrophysics which has shed light on how stars evolve and how they die in the supernova explosions that produce the pulsars. Kaspi is McGill’s Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics, the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology, and the director of a recently created interdisciplinary institute on space research at McGill.

Lock is the Marjorie Bronfman Professor Emerita in Social Studies in Medicine, and is affiliated with the Department of Social Studies of Medicine and the Department of Anthropology at McGill.

Margaret Lock / Photo: Owen Egan

A cultural anthropologist with a particular interest in anthropology of the body in health and illness, Lock is regarded as one of the most distinguished and productive medical anthropologists of her generation. She researches the relationship between emerging medical knowledge and its implementation and socioeconomic, cultural and political variables. Lock has received numerous, prestigious national and international awards, including the Canada Council’s Molson Prize, the Killam Prize for the Social Sciences, and the SSHRC Gold Medal for research.

Kaspi and Lock are joining a very prestigious group. Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Margaret Mead and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

But being admitted to the American Academy is more than just an honorary distinction. The Academy is a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts and education.

“The honour of election is also a call to service,” said Academy President Jonathan Fanton. “Through its projects, publications, and events, the Academy provides its members with opportunities to discover common interests and find common ground. We invite every new member to participate in our important and rewarding work.”

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on October 10, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.