Canada marks its sesquicentennial this year, and amid the excitement and celebrations much attention is being, justly, paid to how as a country we can improve our national record on the treatment of our Aboriginal Peoples. There is a strong feeling that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, issued in 2015 and published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, has the capacity to mark a watershed in Aboriginal matters, and not simply with respect to the apologies owed for the blight of the residential schools. Educational access and opportunity will lie at the core of any initiative to empower First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people.
Queen’s, along with other Canadian universities, is doing its bit. Last year we set up a committee under Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) Jill Scott to consult widely and recommend some specific educational actions that Queen’s can take. Some are already in place or under way, as depicted in this issue of the Review. Others will be announced in the coming months.
At the same time, Queen’s is also confronting wider issues of inclusivity, diversity, and – though the word is an ugly one – racism. Queen’s is a much more diverse institution than it was in my day as a student: we have students from around the world, and Canadian students from many different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds, and of different sexual and gender orientations.
Our faculty and staff are also more diverse, though that diversity is not evenly distributed across the university’s units and its ranks. Some of our attitudes and traditions have not kept pace with this reality.
Accordingly, in parallel with our work to improve the Aboriginal experience, I have also struck a committee to implement some changes recommended by previous reports such as the Diversity, Anti-Racism and Equity (DARE) report. A few have been made since that report was issued seven years ago, but the time is overdue to execute the others.
I do not expect this committee to be long in its work – we know much of what we need to do – though some of the actions needed (including greater attention to diversity in hiring practices, curricular reform, and the modification of some rather exclusive traditions) may take a little longer. We’ve already done some of that – I’m very glad, for instance, that some grossly homophobic and sexually offensive songs that I chanted as a frosh in 1976 are no longer in general circulation.
One or two of you have written letters with concern that the university is being “politically correct.” I thank you for sharing your thoughts. My perspective is simply this: organizations must change, adapt, and remain in tune with social standards (and, ideally, lead on their progressive reform), just as they must change and adapt with respect to pedagogical practices or areas of research. Queen’s has changed, for the better, in many ways over the past quarter-century, and will continue to do so over the next 25 years. As I have said in this column repeatedly during the seven-and-a-half years of my principalship, a university is an evolving institution; if it stands still, it will not survive, let alone thrive.
2017 marks the latter half of our 175th anniversary as well as Canada’s 150th. Let us recommit ourselves to preserving our values but also to updating our traditions and becoming a more inclusive site of scholarship and learning.
This blog first appeared in the Queen’s Alumni Review (2017 Issue 1: Indigenous Issues and Experiences at Queen’s). Those interested in contributing to the discussion on racism, diversity, and inclusion at Queen’s are warmly encouraged to attend one of three upcoming community forums on these topics.
The following is a guest blog written by Queen’s Model Parliament co-chairs Jasmine Lagundzija, (Artsci’18) and Brandon Jamieson, (Artsci’17).
For three days every January, 350 students from Queen’s University travel to Ottawa to participate in the country’s largest and oldest model Parliament conference. For the past 70 years, Queen’s Model Parliament (QMP) has given young Canadians the opportunity to engage with politics firsthand as they hone their debating skills and draft legislation to address some of the nation’s most pressing issues, all while seated in the House of Commons.
The conference begins in September, when more than 500 students from nearly every discipline apply for the opportunity to attend QMP. Then, through random lottery, 338 students have the opportunity to attend the conference as delegates. When they are admitted to the conference, they are bound to one of the five major political parties in Canada. After electing a party leader, the delegates are free to roam as party leaders canvass and campaign to have delegates join their party. After two weeks of campaigning and a leadership debate, delegates may either rejoin the party they were first bound to, or they may switch to a new party. As is practice by convention, the party with the most members will form government. Then, for four months, delegates meet weekly in their respective caucuses to draft legislation that will be debated on in full session of the House in January.
Simultaneously, the QMP Journalism Program kicks off. Ten students are admitted to the conference to adopt the role of the press. While delegates are drafting legislation, canvasing for their party, and preparing for the conference, the journalists are interviewing, critiquing, and publishing their work in the bi-weekly Parliamentary Post. The Press Corp travels to Ottawa with the delegates and continue their work, holding our would-be-politicos to account for their policies. At the end of the conference, they are invited to attend a live-taping of CBC’s Power & Politics – a small reward for their work.
While in the House, guest speakers are invited to preside over debate on bills as Speakers of the House. Just this year we were privileged to welcome the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, the Hon. Bill Morneau, British High Commissioner Howard Drake, Rosemary Barton, among countless others. After presiding over debate, speakers have the chance to share their own personal experiences and have a conversation with delegates.
The bills presented at QMP are wide ranging in their scope and subject. They cover topics on everything from the environment, to Indigenous affairs, foreign affairs to the future of the CBC. However, the topic of bills tends to reflect the broader concerns of young Canadians today. How can we address the ever pressing threat posed by climate change? What is Canada’s role in a quickly adapting global political landscape? It is hard not to remain hopeful about the future of the country when students willingly choose to attend this conference to debate these issues, for no reason other than their own personal satisfaction. The solutions presented are often innovative, comprehensive, and occasionally humorous. However, this reflects a broader light-hearted tone delegates adopt when debating issues. Debate isn’t divisive and partisanship isn’t poisonous.
The students leave with more than just the memories. The experience they have is just learning outside the classroom. They leave with a greater grasp on the legislative and procedural functions of our government and a more acute understanding of the complex issues we face as a nation. They hear of the value and importance of remaining engaged citizens through voting and community service. They appreciate the necessity of debate with equal parts respect and consideration. They have taken away skills that will continue to better them throughout their educational endeavours, their future careers, and, most importantly, as private citizens.
For us, as the co-chairs of this year’s conference, we had the privilege of working with a team of talented individuals and a network of hundreds of alumni to deliver this annual experience. Without hesitation, we volunteered 15 to 20 hours per week of our time on preparing for those three days. We were always motivated by the prospect that we were having at least a small, but hopefully a profound impact on the leaders of today and tomorrow. In our conversations with QMP alumni such as the Hon. Peter Milliken, the Hon. John Baird, and Nik Nanos, they frequently cite how their time at QMP shaped and inspired their desires to continue a life in politics. And for the past 70 years, there have been thousands of students just like them who drew on their time as students sitting in the House of Commons.
It has been a wonderful year at Queen’s University – one full of exciting announcements, unique challenges, and major milestones. As we head into the holidays, I’ve been looking back on some of my favourite moments of the past twelve months, and wanted to share a few of them with you.
The year started off with the announcement of a $4-million grant from the NSERC Discovery Frontiers Program for the Engineered Nickel Catalysts for Electrochemical Clean Energy (Ni Electro Can) research team, to develop the next generation of clean energy technologies. With 14 Canadian researchers, seven universities, nine international researchers from seven different countries, and a number of industry partners on board, the Ni Electro Can team is a perfect example of how collaboration enables researchers to remain at the forefront of discovery and propel Canadian research onto the world stage. Five of those 14 Canadian researchers are faculty members at Queen’s, including the team’s primary investigator, Dr. Gregory Jerkiewicz. The Honourable Dr. Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, Mr. Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, and Dr. Mario Pinto, President of Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, all came to Queen’s University to celebrate the announcement.
During a visit to the University of Otago in New Zealand in early February, I renewed a memorandum of understanding between the seven universities in the Matariki Network of Universities. I was also fortunate to meet with some fellow Queen’s alumni at a Matariki reception in Auckland.
It was an honour to celebrate the recognition of Nobel Laureate Dr. Art McDonald and his SNOLAB collaborators in the House of Commons in early March. The Nobel Prize is a result of the dedication of 273 collaborative scientists whose work was generously funded by numerous universities, industry, and government organizations, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, and Industry Canada. Their discovery, which has fundamentally changed our view of the universe, would not have been possible without continued support from the Government of Canada.
In April, we unveiled Alfred and Isabel Bader’s historic donation to our arts centre – Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo. As one of the most significant contributions of art to a Canadian university in history, the painting dramatically elevates The Bader Collection and places the Agnes among the premier university art galleries in North America for the study of European art. The gift also raises the international profile of the historical European collection and of the Agnes as a whole, as our arts centre now holds three of the six Rembrandts in Canadian public collections. Alfred Bader (Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86) and Isabel Bader (LLD’07) are among Queen’s most generous benefactors, supporting the university for seven decades. They have given back to Queen’s in countless ways: transforming the campus, enriching the student experience, supporting scholarship, and helping to enhance the university’s reputation as a top-tier educational institution.
The month of May was filled with convocation ceremonies, and in honour of Queen’s University’s 175th anniversary, we decided to celebrate the accomplishments of some of our most distinguished alumni in conferring honorary degrees. Four members of our city’s most beloved band, The Tragically Hip, joined us for our second of 21 convocation ceremonies on May 2. Dr. Gord Sinclair delivered a wonderful speech to the crowd, “Your greatest satisfaction, in every aspect of your life, will come from the interactions with the people you partner with and those to whom you provide help.”
The Annual Staff and Faculty Barbecue gives us a chance to step away from our offices and connect with colleagues from across campus. Seeing so many faces at the event in early June was a perfect reminder of just how many people work day in and day out to make Queen’s a great university.
In July, I spent a few hours visiting with the researchers and staff at the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. I followed my visit with a tour of Dr. Madhuri Koti’s oncology lab in the Queen’s Cancer Research Institute – one of several lab tours I completed over the year. I have really enjoyed meeting researchers in person and seeing the tremendous work they are doing, and I’ve found the tours to be very helpful to me in advancing Queen’s reputation and profile for research with government, alumni, and donors.
Just before Orientation Week, our AMS executives hosted a Roundtable on Volunteering in the Community. I joined our new Provost, Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Carolyn Thompson, AMS VP of University Affairs, and Mayor Bryan Paterson on stage. We discussed how students could become better involved in the community and leverage those experiences later in life. In honour of Queen’s 175th anniversary, the AMS also announced that they were aiming for 175 years worth of volunteer service from Queen’s students over the 2016-17 year!
Under clear skies and dazzling sunshine, 3,373 people turned out to Nixon Field on Sept. 6 to help Queen’s University set the Guinness World Record for largest human letter – a Q. All of the participants wore gold T-shirts provided by the organizers. The Q had a circumference of approximately 140 metres, with organizers mapping out the letter in advance using more than 300 metres of rope. The record attempt is a highlight of the university’s 175th anniversary celebrations. Hundreds of incoming students helped fill up a large portion of the Q along with other students, faculty, staff, and local community members.
Queen’s University was incorporated by an Imperial Royal Charter issued by Queen Victoria on Oct. 16, 1841. The university marked the 175th anniversary of that historic occasion with a tree dedication in the Snodgrass Arboretum in front of Summerhill on Sunday, Oct. 16. Earlier in the day, University Historian Duncan McDowall and I visited St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where we attended a special service that recognized the important role that church played in Queen’s early history. In this photo, I’m joined by Queen’s Elder in Residence, Mary Ann Spencer.
On Nov. 23, Mr. Seymour Schulich and I unveiled the Schulich-Woolf Rare Book Collection at Queen’s University, during a ceremony at the Queen’s Douglas Library. The collection, a combined 400 books, focuses on 16th-18th-century English history and culture but also includes volumes on travel, antiquities, and Canadiana. A titan of Canadian industry whose career spanned the financial services and mining sectors, Mr. Schulich has distinguished himself as a philanthropist over the last two decades, donating more than $350 million to universities and hospitals throughout Canada, the U.S., and Israel. In 2011, he launched the Schulich Leader Scholarships, a $100-million program that provides full scholarships to promising high school graduates with a passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Since the program’s inception, Queen’s has been a top-five destination for Schulich Leaders; fourteen of them have chosen to study at Queen’s. In this photo, Mr. Schulich (centre) and I look at one of the new displays with Alvan Bregman, Head, W.D. Jordan Rare Books and Special Collections.
Earlier this month, I hosted the annual Principal’s Holiday Reception where I honoured seven Queen’s staff members with Staff Recognition Awards. The awards recognize staff members who consistently provide outstanding contributions to the learning and working environment at Queen’s at a level significantly beyond what is usually expected. The 2016 Staff Recognition Award recipients are: Melinda Knox and Kelly Blair-Matuk, Office of the Vice-Principal (Research); Sandra McFadden, Office of the University Registrar (Student Awards); Sandra Murray, Centre for Teaching & Learning; Ben Seewald, Advancement – Alumni Relations; Deborah Smith, Office of the University Registrar (Exams Office); and Angela Street, Office of the University Registrar (Student Awards).
Of course, these are only twelve of a few hundred busy days around Queen’s University campus, but they are great reminders of what we’ve accomplished since January. I give my best wishes to you for a wonderful holiday break filled with friends, family and lots of rest and relaxation. See you all again in 2017!