Dear members of the McGill community:

It is once again my pleasure to update you about the recent activities of McGill’s Board of Governors, which is the University’s highest governing body. (You can learn more about the Board’s mandate and membership at its website.) The Board held its first meeting of 2018-19 on Thursday, October 4. As I have done in years past, I will share with you the highlights from each of the Board’s five regular meetings during this academic year.

My opening remarks covered developments since the Board last met in May:

  • Frosh Week was a fun, safe and energizing time. The culture around freshman orientation has been changing in positive ways in recent years, due in part to collaboration between our student societies, the University administration, the police and our neighbours in the Milton Park community.
  • Fall 2018 enrolment: The preliminary numbers indicate that our total undergraduate and graduate student body has increased by approximately 1% over last year. The undergraduate degree program enrolment remains stable, with the overall growth being principally in Master’s program enrolment. For the first time, China is our top country of origin for international students, followed by (in order) the U.S., France, India and Saudi Arabia. The final enrolment numbers will be available later in October.
  • Saudi Arabia student recall: Postgraduate medical education trainees (fellows and residents) have been permitted to stay in, or return to, Canada. The Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau is awaiting approval from the Saudi Ministry of Education to allow similar exemptions for Saudi academic students who are close to finishing their programs.
  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings: McGill placed #44, making it one of only three Canadian universities to rank in the Top 50.
  • Government relations: McGill looks forward to working with the newly elected Quebec government. After the cabinet is announced, we will meet with Premier François Legault and key ministers and senior officials to discuss our priorities.

External relations:

  • World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions: I co-chaired this annual meeting, which was held in Tianjin, China. Twelve members of the McGill community also participated in the meeting, which focused on the theme “Shaping Innovative Societies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
  • The Times Higher Education World Academic Summit was held in Singapore. At this meeting, I underlined the key role that partnerships play in translating groundbreaking knowledge into real-world impact.
  • The Max Bell School of Public Policy organized an event in London, England, as part of the celebration of the new Diamond-Brown Chair in Democratic Studies. I participated in a panel discussion, with Stephen Toope (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge) and Daniel Costello (Canadian ambassador to the European Union), about the roles that universities play in helping society navigate current pressing social and economic issues.

Community relations:

  • The Principal’s Task Force on Respect and Inclusion in Campus Life submitted its report to Senate in May. There will be opportunities for community conversations about the report in the months ahead, as senior administration prepares a plan of action. Thank you to co-chairs Prof. Bruce Lennox and Prof. Nandini Ramanujam, the Task Force members, and everyone who participated in the consultations.
  • Pow Wow: As part of First People’s House 17th Annual Pow Wow, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a new coin depicting an Indigenous dancer. The coin was designed by Kanien’kehá:kaartist Garrison Garrow.
  • Centraide: The 2018 Centraide Campaign is now underway. Last year, the McGill community raised more than $500,000 to support more than 360 community groups, projects, and organizations across Montreal, Laval and the South Shore. This year’s co-chairs are Prof. Dilson Rassier, Dean of the Faculty of Education, and Secretary-General Edyta Rogowska. SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer is a member of the McGill campaign committee.

As is my tradition, I ended my remarks by celebrating some members of the community who have recently received well-deserved external recognition:

  • Alumnus Bob Wares (BSc’79, DSc’12) made a $5-million gift to the Faculty of Science, to support research programs, fellowships, innovative research, lecture series and outreach efforts.
  • A $3.5-million gift from alumni Sheryl Kerr (BCom’67) and David Kerr (BSc’65) will be used to create the Kerr Family Women in Sport program, which will provide support, mentorship and additional coaching to McGill’s women coaches and athletes.
  • Eleven McGill professors are among the new Royal Society of Canada fellows and new members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Two McGill professors will also receive RSC awards in November: the Rutherford Memorial Medal will go to chemistry professor Tomislav Friščić , and the Kitty Newman Memorial Award to philosophy professor Iwao Hirose.
  • Dr. Madhukar Pai, Director of McGill’s International Tuberculosis Centre, and Director of McGill Global Health Programs, joined more than 50 heads of state and hundreds of leaders, researchers and philanthropists for the United Nations’ first-ever High Level Meeting on TB in New York.

Taking into account the needs of the Board, and best practices at comparable universities, the Nominating, Governance and Ethics (NGE) Committee recommended that the Board designate a second member-at-large to the role of Vice-Chair, in addition to current Vice-Chair Mr. Claude Généreux. To this end, the Board approved the appointment of Ms. Maryse Bertrand as Vice-Chair, for a three-year term commencing immediately and ending June 30, 2021. The Vice-Chair provides advice and support to the Board Chair, and works in collaboration with the Chair, Chancellor and myself in leveraging and broadening relationships as they relate to University priorities.

The Board approved the NGE Committee’s recommendation to establish an IT Committee, bringing the number of Board standing committees to nine. Increasing governance support in this area is in keeping with best practices of having additional oversight with regard to IT-related infrastructure projects. Also on the recommendation of the NGE Committee, the Board approved a number of appointments and reappointments to Board Standing Committees and to various internal and external bodies.

The Board approved the annual standard borrowing resolution from Financement-Québec. The Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur uses this particular mechanism to deliver the annual provincial capital grant to universities.

The Board received notice of the annual joint Board-Senate meeting, to be held on November 14, 2018. The topic will be “How could McGill transform itself for a world of lifelong learning?”

The Board received reports from the Building and Property Committee and the Executive Committee, and a report from the Investment Committee that included the Report on Endowment. On the recommendation of the Investment Committee, the Board approved updates to the Statement of Investment Policy.

TheAudit Committeepresented theAuditor’s Report and Audited Financial Statements for FY2017-2018.The auditors expressed the opinion that the statements are a fair and accurate representation of the University’s financial position at April 30, 2018. Our FY2017-2018 financial statements are now online.

I reported on the September 12, 2018, Senate meeting. The Board of Governors was made aware that Senate passed a motion to inform the Board that it favours, in principle, a move to divest the University’s endowment “from all companies whose primary business is the extraction, distribution, and/or sale of fossil fuels; and from all mutual funds that invest in such companies.” The Board agreed to refer Senate’s position on the matter to its Committee to Advise on Matters Related to Social Responsibility (CAMSR), which will be meeting later this month.

The full minutes from the open session of last year’s final Board of Governors meeting, held on May 24, 2018, plus a summary of items dealt with during that meeting’s closed session, are now available online; the minutes from the October 4th meeting will be available following approval by the Board at its next meeting, to be held on Thursday, December 13.

I welcome your thoughts, ideas and questions. You can always contact me at


Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor


October 24, 2018