Update on the work taking place at the site of the former Royal Victoria Hospital

Dear members of the McGill community,  

I am writing to provide an update on the work taking place at the site of the former Royal Victoria Hospital. These updates are offered to keep you apprised of developments on McGill’s advancement of its New Vic Project, which has been the subject of litigation in relation to claims that the site is one where unmarked graves might be found. 

Pursuant to a Settlement Agreement reached among the parties last April, archeological work has been undertaken on the site to determine whether unmarked graves are located there. This archeological work has been led from the beginning by archeologists and service providers possessing the expertise recommended by the independent panel of experts and conducted in full compliance with the Settlement Agreement. Cultural monitors appointed by the Mohawk Mothers have had access to the site for all phases of work. 

To date, no evidence has been found to substantiate the presence of unmarked graves. Last week, the sole of a shoe and bone fragments, which have been identified as animal bones by the archeologist and bio-archeologist conducting the investigation, were found.  They have assured us that such findings are common during archeological investigations. 

Archeologists working at the site have assured all parties to the Settlement Agreement that all the items found, including the animal bones, are safely stored in their laboratories, ensuring the integrity of the findings is preserved. 

Furthermore, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey was conducted on September 9 and 10 in two zones near the Allan Memorial Institute.  We recently received the report of the GPR survey. As previously mentioned, GPR cannot detect bones or directly image human remains, but rather differences in soil properties and in the arrangement of subsurface layers that may, or may not, be associated with graves. The survey did not identify any anomalies described as “likely” grave type features. However, one (1) anomaly described as a “potential” grave type feature, as well as other anomalies described as “unknown” feature were identified. These anomalies will require further investigation, namely by opening test excavation pits as recommended by the panel of experts named by the parties. 

Throughout this process, all parties to the Settlement Agreement have been provided with the reports from the experts carrying out the archeological techniques.   

In addition to this update, we are aware of a security incident at the construction site, involving an individual who crossed into the construction site and placed themselves in front of actively operating heavy machinery. This is a very serious safety concern for the individual in question, the cultural monitors, and the construction workers on site. 

While the Agreement between all parties stipulates that only the cultural monitors could be present on the construction site to observe the work, others have been allowed to be present in the spirit of openness and transparency. However, given the safety risks that recent actions, including this incident, have caused, security parameters must be stengthened.  

McGill University’s top priority remains the health and safety of all those on site and as such, we will also abide by the agreed upon security protocols. 

We will continue to provide regular updates to the McGill community on our efforts and our findings, and encourage anyone who would like more information and updates to consult this FAQ page, which includes the Settlement Agreement and more details on the processes that were followed to conduct the investigation.  



Christopher Manfredi

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)

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