Top events in 2014

Published: 11 December 2014

Here’s a list of important events of 2014 selected by the Media Relations Office of McGill University, with a paragraph of comment from a McGill expert on each news topic.


Ebola epidemic

“The world cannot afford to turn a blind eye to what is happening in West Africa at this very moment in respect to Ebola, because if it continues to spread it will touch all our lives.  Tourism has already declined in South Africa, a country thousands of miles away from West Africa. If Ebola comes to North America or Europe, the economic and social effect would be immense (e.g., people would keep their children from school and stay home to look after them, etc).  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by January, 1.4 million people will become infected and the mortality rate from this Ebola strain is up to 71%.  The Ebola outbreak originated from wildlife, as did SARS and HIV, thus knowing the interactions between wildlife and humans has become a paramount question in order to understand how to prevent another outbreak.”

Colin Chapman - Department of Anthropology & School of Environment 

colin.chapman [at] (Email)

Ukraine/Crimea annexation

“2014 was a dramatic year for Ukraine. In January and February, the peaceful pro-European protest known as Euromaidan escalated. President Yanukovych pushed through draconian anti-protest laws and attempted a violent crackdown, but instead lost control and was forced to flee the country. Within a month, Russia intervened in Ukraine's majority ethnic-Russian region of Crimea, engineered a quick referendum, and annexed the territory. In April, Russian government agents and volunteers stoked local grievances against the new government in Kyiv and fomented an armed insurgency, which Ukraine's newly elected President Poroshenko has tried to defeat militarily. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has taken over 4000 civilian lives and has displaced close to 500,000 people. Ukraine has suffered a humanitarian catastrophe, state dismemberment, and a weakened economy. The silver lining is that Ukrainian civil society has strengthened and the newly elected parliament is less fractured than ever, dominated by a 75% strong pro-European coalition. The geopolitical consequences of the Ukrainian crisis are also profound. The aggression in Ukraine has soured Russia's relationship with Europe and North America and produced rounds of mutual sanctions.  Russian President Vladimir Putin's popularity at home has soared in the wake of the Crimean annexation and it remains to be seen whether the economic effects of the sanctions will put a dent in it.”

Maria Popova – Department of Political Science

maria.popova [at] (Email)

Islamic State

“The rise of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” has seen the conquest of substantial areas of Syria and Iraq, mass atrocities, and military action by a US-led international coalition (including Canada) intended to weaken and ultimately destroy the extremist group. However, it is unlikely to disappear soon. It will have an effect on the Middle East and on global jihadist movements for some time to come. Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war rages on at a cost of more than 200,000 dead and 3 million refugees since 2011.”

Rex Brynen – Department of Political Science

rex.brynen [at] (Email)

China’s economic slow down

“On Friday, November 21, for the first time since July 2012, China cut its one year lending rate from 6% to 5.4% and its one year deposit rate from 3% to 2.75%. This was in response to disturbing data that indicates that China's growth rate is slowing down. This concerns the rest of the world both financially and socially. China, in recent years has represented a very large portion of the world's consumption of energy and base metals. Not only are more cars now sold in China than the US or any other country, but China currently buys about half the world's copper production. Socially, it was once explained to me that China is like that bus in the movie "Speed". Now that it has achieved a certain growth rate associated with an irreversible migration of rural Chinese from farms to factory jobs in cities, it cannot stop or China will blow up.”

Ken Lester – Desautels Faculty of Management

klester [at] (Email)

World Cup 2014 in Brazil

“The 2014 World Cup in Brazil highlighted the political irrelevancy of high-cost global sporting events. While the feared disruptions due to protests and poor preparation were minimal, Brazil’s embarrassing defeat, economic slowdown, and concerns about political corruption and the Cup’s high costs just months before national elections would have suggested that the days of the incumbent Workers Party Government were numbered. Yet, it was re-elected narrowly. Ironically, this was largely the same story that accompanied the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Cynically, one might suspect that the FIFA understands this all too well, hence the lack of concern for the controversies surrounding the Qatar games.”

Philip Oxhorn – Department of Political Science

philip.oxhorn [at] (Email)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

“The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may well turn out to be the greatest mystery in aviation history. The world watched in shock for weeks and then months as the search effort for the lost plane unfolded, becoming the most expensive in history. Flight 370 raised questions about how flights are tracked, and the inept handling of the event by the Malaysian government. Hopefully, this tragedy might provide some improvements to the way flights are tracked and how they communicate their location.”

Karl Moore – Desautels Faculty of Management

karl.moore [at] (Email)

Rosetta Mission – Probe landing on a comet

“After 10 years of travel in the cold empty space of our Solar System, the European Space Agency's probe Rosetta caught up with the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  After orbiting the comet from August 6 to November 12, Rosetta released Philae, a small lander the size of a washing machine. The mission is to analyze the surface and sub-surface composition.  Despite a somewhat rough landing, the success of the Philae mission represents technical prowess; landing on a comet half a billion kilometres away from us had never been done before. Since comets have remained unaltered since the formation of our Solar system, analyses of the data collected by Philae and Rosetta will help us answer the fundamental question of the origin of life on Earth.

Sébastien Guillot – Ph.D researcher – Department of Physics

sebastien.guillot [at] (Email)

Luka Rocco Magnotta Trial

“The Luka Magnotta trial is noteworthy on several grounds. One of them is whether jury members are at risk of developing traumatic stress symptoms after bearing witness to the gruesome evidence. There are very few mental health services offered to individuals accepting to serve on jury duty.”

Dr. Alain Brunet – Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill’s Department of Psychiatry 

alain.brunet [at] (Email)

Gaza War

“The most recent Gaza War, continued Israeli occupation and settlement activity, and growing violence in Jerusalem have all highlighted the cost of the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. US-mediated talks ended in failure in April 2014, and there is little prospect for the resumption of meaningful negotiations any time soon. A failure to act, however, could make the conflict ever more intractable.”

Rex Brynen – Department of Political Science

rex.brynen [at] (Email)

Quebec provincial election

“The April 2014 election in Quebec brought both stability, with the return of a majority Liberal government in power, and change as the Parti Québécois experienced a crushing defeat that could potentially transform the party system in the province in fundamental ways. Pauline Marois, Quebec’s first female premier, lost both her seat and her leadership after barely 18 months in power as voters rejected both the identity politics of the controversial Charter of Values and the sovereignty clarion-call of her star candidate, Pierre Karl Péladeau. Former Liberal Health Minister Philippe Couillard brought the Liberal Party of Quebec roaring back to life despite the backdrop of the Charbonneau Commission inquiry into political corruption. In all, the PLQ attracted 41.5 % of the vote across Quebec and formed a majority with 70 seats, while the PQ slipped to a historic low of 25.4 % of the vote (its lowest vote share since first running candidates in 1970) and a threadbare opposition of 30 seats. The third party, Coalition Avenir Quebec, ended up with 23 % of the vote and 20 seats. Québec Solidaire got 3 seats and 7.6 % of the total vote.”

Antonia Maioni – Department of Political Science 

antonia.maioni [at] (Email)

Scotland’s Referendum

“The Scottish Referendum of 2014 was one of the important events of the year, but not for the reasons usually given. It did not answer the question of separation once and for all. Rather, the promises made by the three main Westminster party leaders have not been fulfilled, and this is already causing resentment in Scotland. The issue is not dead because the British state is old and creasy, generally unable to reform itself.

John Hall – Department of Sociology

john.anthony.hall [at] (Email)

Burger King and Tim Hortons’ merger

“The proposed "merger" between Burger King and Tim Hortons has some interesting aspects to it.  On the surface, it looks like two food service companies of equal size getting together to create various economies of scale which lead to cost savings.  As well, it allows both companies to diversify their offerings to clients and thus enhance their revenue profile.  However, this deal has much more to do with the US tax system and the burgeoning practice of American companies doing a tax inversion by buying a foreign company and moving head offices abroad to a beneficial tax jurisdiction.

Ken Lester – Desautels Faculty of Management 

klester [at] (Email)

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