A new academic year begins

August 27, 2021

Dear members of the McGill community,

As we welcome the beginning of a new academic year and an increase in in-person activities, we face, unfortunately, a fourth wave of COVID-19.

Over the past months, our society has learned to live with the COVID-19 virus and to take the necessary steps to resume regular activities prudently and gradually, but we must remain vigilant to avoid having to resume harder constraints.

I share the view that vaccination is the most effective measure to protect individuals and to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is therefore our expectation that all members of our community will get vaccinated, unless they have a medical condition that prevents them from doing so. Based on the most recent figures received from the government authorities, more than 85% of our students are vaccinated. However, we can do better and therefore, if you have not done so already, I urge you to get vaccinated.

While some members of the McGill community believe the University should adopt a vaccination mandate, it is important to stress that we must operate within Quebec’s legal framework, mainly but not only the Quebec Civil Code. Individuals enjoy a high level of protection of their rights and freedoms, including but not limited to the right to refuse any medical procedure – such as vaccination – unless otherwise allowed by law.

The government considers higher education to be an essential service – a powerful endorsement of the importance of our mission and role, which also imposes a responsibility to ensure that no one enrolled in our University is excluded from essential learning activities without extraordinary justification. In particular, we are required to provide and ensure access to essential learning activities that are necessary for all students to complete their degrees, diplomas or certificates.

One thing remains unchanged: our determination to offer the utmost “McGill experience” for our students. As we come together again on our campuses, we are enthusiastic about a new year of learning and discovery. Of course, we continue to share the responsibility to keep each other, and our community, safe and healthy. Still, a number of preventive measures will continue to be in effect for the Fall semester, such as mask and distancing protocols. Additionally, vaccination passports will be required to access a wide range of non-essential activities on- and off-campus. For this reason, full participation in the life of our University will require full vaccination, and that in turn will most likely lead to an increase in the double vaccination of members of our community.

This is undoubtedly a period of uncertainty, and the situation is changing rapidly. That is why the Quebec government and the McGill senior leadership team are constantly assessing, reassessing, and making changes to evolving measures when needed. I am fully confident that the government will implement stronger measures if the situation warrants it, just as I have great confidence in McGill’s own Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), which assesses the situation daily and whose tireless work is responsible for the fact that McGill’s teaching, research and workspaces have not seen a single case of COVID-19 transmission since the beginning of the pandemic.

Other measures will continue to be communicated to you regularly from our EOC, and we will continue to monitor closely the situation to determine the best way to keep McGillians safe.

I know that I can count on every member of our community to support one another and remain steadfast in upholding our shared commitment to the health and well-being of our community.

Bonne rentrée.

 

Sincerely,

Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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