Dear members of the McGill community:

McGill’s Board of Governors held its second meeting of the 2020-2021 governance year on December 10, 2020. In keeping with public health guidelines, the meeting was held virtually.

It is once again our pleasure to provide you with an update on the recent activities of McGill’s Board of Governors. You can learn more about the Board’s mandate and membership on its website.

The full minutes of the meeting’s open session will be available following approval at the Board’s next meeting, on February 11, 2021. In the meantime, we would like to share with you the meeting’s important discussions, decisions and developments.

Thank you for your interest in the work of the Board of Governors. If you have any questions, ideas or comments, please write


Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Ram Panda, Chair, McGill Board of Governors


Governance & senior administration

During the closed session, the Board approved the following:

Congratulations to Mr. McCall MacBain, a longtime champion of our University, on his appointment as Chancellor. We also extend our congratulations to Prof. Leckey and Ms. Maryse Bertrand on their reappointments. All their terms commence July 1, 2021.

Key decisions

During the closed session, the Board approved, on the recommendation of the Building and Property Committee, a lease agreement for space at 2001 McGill College, to be used for a federally funded serology research project directly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board also approved, in closed session, the Statutory Selection Committee’s recommendation for the promotion of five Associate Professors to the rank of Full Professor. The McGill Reporter will publish the names of the new appointments in the near future.

During the open session, on the recommendation of the Building and Property Committee, the Board approved:

  • A funded budget increase for the Southwest-Northeast Smart Energy Grids Project in order to complete the project’s construction phase. The project will modify existing heating systems and install heat recovery systems to create an energy recovery loop linking 18 buildings on the downtown campus.
  • Proceeding, in principle, with the replacement and electric conversion of a boiler in the downtown Powerhouse.

Both projects are important elements of McGill’s Energy Management Plan to become carbon neutral by 2040.

The Board received a report from the Finance Committee, from a meeting held on November 19, 2020. The Board approved the proposed FY2021 Final Budget. As part of the report, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi presented the first of three reports on the budget planning exercise for FY2021-2022, outlining the priorities, necessities, risks and uncertainties that the University is taking into consideration as it begins the budget-planning process for the upcoming fiscal year.

On the recommendation of the Sustainability Committee, the Board endorsed the McGill University Climate & Sustainability Strategy 2020-2025. The Strategy continues to work toward the long-term targets set out in its predecessor, Vision 2020, and includes an additional long-term target for McGill to become zero-waste by 2035.

Principal’s Remarks

The Principal’s opening remarks provided updates since the last Board meeting in October.

Campus update

The Quebec government has extended the red-zone restrictions into the New Year, which means McGill will continue to operate as we have been doing for the past weeks.

The many efforts to keep our campuses safe have been successful. As our COVID Case Status reports, we have had an extremely low number of cases of transmission on campus.

On December 2, 2020, Senate approved a motion to change the Winter 2021 Academic Calendar to help our students meet the exceptional demands of the pandemic.

If public health directives allow, the University aims to progressively resume on-campus activities with some employees gradually returning to the University in January, as on-campus operations increase.

Planning for Fall 2021 has begun, and we will use Winter 2021 as an opportunity to slowly and safely increase activities on our campuses.

Government Relations

We are thankful for the tremendous support provided by the Quebec government who agreed to provide grants equivalent to 2018-19 enrolment numbers, providing stability to the University system in so doing.

McGill continues its advocacy efforts though the U15 in support of students and the research enterprise efforts, as well as supporting the universities in their effort to achieve carbon neutrality in their operations.

Since the end of October, McGill has been permitted to welcome new international students. All travelers must have a 14-day quarantine plan upon arrival in Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has identified McGill as one of the designated learning institutions with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan, along with all other post-secondary institutions in Quebec.

With colleagues from the senior administration, I have recently had very positive meetings with Quebec Minister of Higher Education, Danielle McCann, as well as with Finance Minister, Eric Girard, and the Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, to discuss major projects at McGill, including the New Vic and Fiat Lux.


The Maclean’s University Rankings named McGill Canada’s top medical/doctoral university for the 16th year in a row. McGill was applauded for, among other things, its sustainability efforts, campus diversity, student wellness initiatives, and its rigorous research regimen.

Community relations

In mid-October, McGill received a $15M gift from McGill alumni Marc (DipAgr’58, BA’64) and Marie Bieler (BSc (Agr)’80). The gift is the largest ever from a graduate of our Macdonald Campus. This transformative gift will build resources for the Bieler School of Environment to tackle critical environmental and social issues.

The winning book of this year’s Cundill History Prize is Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend.

The 2020 McGill-Centraide campaign, co-chaired by Robert Leckey, Dean of the Faculty of Law, and Louis Arseneault, Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations), continues until the end of December.

Athletics and Recreation

Geoffrey Phillips (BEd’87 MA’93) has been appointed the new Senior Director of Athletics and Recreation. Currently the Director of Sport Programs, he will begin his new appointment on December 14.


The Principal concluded her remarks by highlighting some of the members of our community who have recently received well-deserved recognition:

  • Several McGillians are among the newest appointments to the Order of Canada, including Yves Beauchamp, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance), Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of The Neuro, Dr. Alice Benjamin, Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Elliot Lifson, Professor of Practice, Desautels Faculty of Management. Several McGill alumni were appointed to the Order of Canada, including Mr. Howard Alper and Prof. Emeritus Robin Poole who were promoted to the rank of Companion.
  • McGill has two new Rhodes ScholarsAbdel Dicko is a U3 Joint Honours Political Science and African Studies student. Ffion Hughes is a U4 Honours History student.
  • Computer Science student Jasmine Wang is one of 154 new recipients of a Schwarzman Scholarship. This year saw 3,600 applicants to the distinguished program at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.
  • Prof. Myriam Denov (School of Social Work) received the SSHRC Impact Insight Award for her research on children and families affected by war.
  • Thirteen McGill researchers have been named on Clarivate’s annual Highly Cited Researchers 2020 list of scientists from around the world who have published papers that rank in the top 1% by citations in their fields over the past decade.
  • Sports Illustrated named Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (MDCM’18) one of its five Sportspersons of the Year for putting his professional football career on hold to work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic as a volunteer at a local long-term care facility. He was also recently named co-winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy, sharing the honour of being Canada’s athlete of the year.


The Board received the following reports. Click on the links to read the full reports:

Other activity

Laura Winer, Director of Teaching & Learning Services, presented an informative overview of TLS activities, initiatives and developments.

Closing remarks

In recognition of this being the last Board meeting of 2020, the Chair thanked the Board members for their service, dedication and engagement throughout what has been a challenging year.