Dear members of the McGill community,

I consider myself an optimist – a feeling I have kept despite the difficult circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.

Nevertheless, I thought that it might be good to make sure my compass is still well calibrated in these turbulent times. I did so by consulting Professor Charles Taylor, a “hopelessly optimistic” person who has also been called one of today’s greatest thinkers.

Reflecting on the growing inequalities in the world, which have been made even more obvious in this pandemic, Professor Taylor shared the following thought: “Is it too much to hope that we might react when the pandemic is over, not just with relief that we’ve returned to norma, but also with a determination to address these inadequacies? The optimist in me thinks there’s a good chance we can rise to the occasion.”

In difficult times, it is so important for each of us, particularly those who have the privilege to be part of an environment protected from the worst aspects of the crisis, to hear that inner voice that calls us to “rise to the occasion.”

As Professor Taylor remarked, what we learn from this crisis, and more importantly, what we do post-pandemic to reshape our global future, is an opportunity to rethink and redefine our humanity. The pandemic is a call to action to create a world that is more just, more compassionate, and more humane. While we may be practising physical distancing during this pandemic, we have seen many examples of people coming together to provide help and support.

Recently, we have seen many respond to the call to action and seize an opportunity to rise to the occasion by lending a hand in senior residences which have been hard-hit by the pandemic. I am proud of the response of our society, and particularly the members of the McGill community, who have put themselves on the frontlines to help the elderly.

Finally, over the last weeks, I have taken this opportunity to thank so many people from the McGill community – whether students, academic and administrative and support staff, alumni, friends – for their resilience, strength, and contributions during this pandemic. I want to also recognize the people at McGill who have continued to come to campus to provide necessary services and activities – from looking after students in residence who cannot go home, to conducting essential research services, to provide security services, to name a few.

Stay optimist, stay engaged, and stay well.


Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

McCall MacBain Professor


April 22, 2020