Letter from Pr. Paul Dempsey, Director of the IASL, Regarding the Institute's Research Programs and Its Graduates


Dear IASL Alumni and Friends,

Recently, the McGill Daily published an article describing an effort by a student organization – Demilitarize McGill – to protest activities at several McGill University institutions, including the Institute of Air & Space Law [IASL], a graduate program of the Faculty of Law. The article erroneously states, "The IASL . . . conducts research for the U.S. Air Force." This is false. The IASL conducts no research for or on behalf of the USAF or any other military institution.

The McGill Daily also erroneously states, "Graduates from the IASL often go on to work with major governmental military organizations, such as the U.S. and French Air Forces, as well as major weapons manufacturers such as Boeing." We know of no IASL graduate who works at any major weapons manufacturer. The IASL had U.S., French, Canadian, Pakistani, South African and Australian Air Force officers enroll as students in its courses over the past decade, but they were Air Force lawyers before they came to McGill. They are wonderful students and learn a lot at McGill about the international obligation of States to dedicate themselves to the peaceful uses of space. Air Force lawyers do not engage in combat. During combat, they play a cautionary role in advising senior officers on the legal limits on the use of force, thereby reducing the likelihood of civilian casualties.

Though the principal focus of our courses is on legal aspects of civil aviation and civil uses of space, some of our published research in the area of Space Law focuses on "peaceful uses of space", avoidance of military confrontation, and removal of space debris (a problem exacerbated by military ASAT tests, most recently by China). We have carried out several studies for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), the results of which helped the department in formulating its policies and international efforts towards disarmament.

Over the years, we have held a several major international conferences on the environmental consequences of space debris. The results and recommendations of these conferences have been presented by the IASL to United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. A multi-year multi-million dollar space law research of the IASL is funded by the J.C. Arsenault Foundations and focusses on Space Security Through the Rule of Law and Sustainable Space Development. Working with DFAIT, Project Ploughshares, and the Secure World Foundation, we produce the annual Space Security Index, an effort to inform the public and world leaders of threats to the peaceful use of space.

The Institute of Air & Space Law clearly is a misguided target for the Demilitarize McGill effort.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. We are proud of the important work done at the IASL and are always happy to share our many accomplishments with you.

Prof. Paul Stephen Dempsey
Director, McGill University Institute of Air & Space Law

Contact Information

Prof. Paul Stephen Dempsey
Institute of Air & Space Law
paul.dempsey [at] mcgill.ca