University response to the report on asbestos-related closures at Macdonald Campus
Please find a message from Principal and Vice-Chancellor Deep Saini below, followed by a message from Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi.
A message from Principal and Vice-Chancellor Deep Saini
Dear members of the McGill community,
The Chair of McGill’s Board of Governors, Maryse Bertrand, and I have received the final report of the Internal Audit investigation into events that led to the asbestos-related closure of buildings on Macdonald Campus last winter. The Internal Audit team’s exhaustive efforts over the spring and summer culminated in a detailed final report. It contains 25 recommendations to improve policies and protocols for the management of asbestos and the oversight of construction projects in buildings with asbestos.
While these recommendations emerged from the investigation at Macdonald Campus, they have implications for University-wide policies and processes.
I take the findings of the report very seriously and have accepted all its recommendations. I have also charged Christopher Manfredi, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), with the responsibility of determining the University’s response to the report, with an emphasis on rapid and effective action. You will find a message from the Provost below, which outlines the steps being taken.
Our community’s safety will always be a top priority for us, and we will act decisively to protect it. I am reassured by the fact that air testing in the affected buildings at Macdonald Campus – before, after and during their closures – has always yielded results within provincial safety standards.
The Macdonald Campus community – my academic home, as a professor in the Department of Plant Science – has had to endure a great deal of frustration in recent months. The major construction work there is intended to create a better physical environment for learning, research and work – and I want to assure you that we will get there. But at the same time, I know that the promise of a better future does little to ease the frustration caused by past and present disruptions.
I am grateful for the patience you have shown us so far, and I ask that you place your trust, as I have, in the positive impact that this report will have, and in Provost Manfredi’s leadership in overseeing the implementation of its recommendations.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
A message from Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi
In response to the mandate Principal Saini has given me to determine the University’s response to the findings in the Macdonald Campus Asbestos Report submitted by Internal Audit, I have appointed a Special Task Force to ensure the complete and timely implementation of the report’s 25 recommendations (see below for its composition).
As stated in the report, no single oversight or process problem led to the situation that caused the building closures at Macdonald Campus. The Task Force has already created an initial action plan, starting its work with earlier drafts of the report. The action plan is focused on improving processes, ensuring proper allocation of capacity for oversight and monitoring, ensuring that the size of our project portfolio remains manageable and building a stronger safety-first culture across the University. We are absolutely committed to ensuring this happens.
Working closely with colleagues in Facilities Management and Ancillary Services, the Task Force expects to address all recommendations within 12 months, with many to be completed within three to six months. The Task Force will provide regular updates to the University community on the steps undertaken and progress achieved.
Progress is already being made. The Task Force has reviewed all current construction projects at the University that may potentially involve asbestos to ensure that specific areas of concern highlighted in the investigation report are addressed. A review of all ongoing construction projects has confirmed that safety precautions to tackle issues similar to the ones outlined in the investigation report are satisfactory. McGill staff such as tradespeople or technicians are being told to pause any work involving materials that may contain asbestos if they do not know whether asbestos is present. An appropriate level of project management oversight has been confirmed.
This Task Force includes:
- Anne-Marie Huynh, Director, Master Plan Logistics, Office of the Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance)
- Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning); and
- Laura Nilson, Associate Dean (Graduate Education) in the Faculty of Science.
On behalf of the McGill University community, I sincerely thank them for taking on this vital work.
We are absolutely committed to improving our policies and processes, keeping our community safe, and providing you with the assurance you deserve about the buildings where we all study, work and learn together.
I invite you to learn more about the events leading up to the investigation, the report and the Task Force’s action plan on a dedicated website.
Two town halls for McGill community members will take place on Friday, September 22 – one in person on the Macdonald Campus, and one online. At the town halls:
- Internal Audit will present the investigation’s findings.
- The Task Force will review the action plan to strengthen the University’s policies and processes.
- An independent asbestos expert will be on hand to talk about the health risks related to asbestos exposure.
- You will be invited to ask questions at a Q&A period.
I encourage you to register for one of these events.
In closing, I want to reiterate the gratitude Principal Saini has expressed toward the Macdonald Campus community, for its ongoing patience and cooperation as we work to resolve these issues. I hope that this message fully conveys the seriousness with which the University is taking this matter, and our commitment to learning from these lessons to deliver a better campus experience for everyone at McGill.
Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)