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Principal Heather Munroe-Blum said yesterday there is no evidence to support renewed claims by some native leaders in Ontario that McGill University has an outstanding debt with the Six Nations community.
McGill records show that the University did indeed receive a loan of $40,000 from the Province of Canada — predecessor of today's federal government — in 1860 but that it was fully repaid with interest in 1873 to the government. If there was ever any relationship between the money and native peoples, that was unclear at the time and remains so today, she said.
Questions about the alleged 145-year-old debt were among dozens of queries, comments and suggestions raised at the Nov. 22 Town Hall, the first of three scheduled this academic year.
Munroe-Blum said the focus now should be on steps the University is taking to meet the distinctive educational needs of the native communities.
More than 100 students, faculty and staff members attended the lunchtime forum, which offered a menu of concerns about everything from McGill's environmental practices, ethical purchasing policies, access to academic advising and McGill's independence from corporate influence.
A group of students presented the Principal with a petition with hundreds of signatures and messages written on old sheets, calling for a total ban of cars on campus.
One student raised the issue of international student fees, and how unfair it is that a large portion of these fees are taken by Quebec City, distributed to other universities, and do not remain with the University. Munroe-Blum said this issue and others relating to the underfunding of McGill are among her top priorities.
Munroe-Blum also said that communications must improve so that members of the community have access to up-to-date information about McGill's initiatives in key areas such as sustainability, ethical practices and student services. The next Town Hall will be held in the new year.