Experts turn their backs on McGill on the sidelines of a conference

Associations of experts who were to participate in a conference at McGill University refuse to go to campus in solidarity with the pro-Palestinian encampment and the law professors’ strike.

Three weeks before the event, many have found new premises in other establishments or decided to follow the conferences online. They do not wish to “cross the picket lines” of their fellow law professors, on an indefinite general strike since April 24, or want to “show their solidarity with the camp”.

Some 8,000 researchers and students are expected from June 12 to 21 at the English-speaking Montreal establishment for the Human Sciences Congress. A major event for the 58 associations which chose to organize their conferences at the same time. But, according to the Humanities Federation, which is planning the congress, a “dozen” of them have expressed “discomfort” and will ultimately follow the event online.

This is particularly the case of the Association of Canadian and Quebec Literature. The decision was made because of its “commitment to equity” and “social justice,” president Matthew Cormier wrote in an email obtained by The duty.

“Another group of people […] would have approached other institutions such as the University of Quebec in Montreal or Concordia,” indicates the interim chief administrator of the federation, Mike DeGagné.

Víctor Muñiz-Fraticelli, strike captain of the McGill Association of Law Professors (AMPD), argues that a “vast majority” of the 58 associations have shown their support, whether by changing their mode participation in the convention or by affirming that they will be added to the multiple picketing activities planned during the event. “All the major associations have already taken very concrete steps to minimize their presence at McGill,” he says.

McGill’s reputation damaged

According to the striking associate professor of law and political science, the situation “definitely harms the reputation of the university.” “This administration, at McGill, does not admit dissent,” he asserts, referring to the difficult negotiations with a view to obtaining a first collective agreement as well as the multiple requests for an injunction which would dismantle the pro-Palestinian encampment.

“These are two separate struggles, but […] there is a very, very strong solidarity between all the people who want to demonstrate against an administration which only knows repression to prevent dissent. »

Mr. DeGagné, for his part, still sees the Montreal establishment as a “good partner”. “We hope that over the next three weeks, a satisfactory solution will be found to the problems currently arising on campus,” he said, without specifying what this would consist of. “But we must also recognize that the world and society have changed […]and that this kind of disagreements, […] political protests, can occur at any time on any campus. »

One thing is certain, the AMPD, which claims to have succeeded in rallying “all of McGill”, sees widespread enthusiasm for its unionization approach. Because, a rare occurrence in Quebec, the professors at the English-speaking university are not unionized. “We really have the impression that people understand what is at stake here,” says the association’s vice-president, Kirsten Anker.

McGill University did not respond to questions from Duty.

“Fracture” with the federation

These multiple withdrawals a few weeks before the scientific meeting also caused tensions between the federation and its member associations. In his email, Mr. Cormier deplores that the organization has “refused to reimburse” those who wish to unsubscribe.

In interview at Duty, the non-governmental organization defends itself by explaining that after having had to pay around twenty employees for a year to organize the event, “the idea of ​​repaying the money, three weeks from the due date, would be difficult to accept “. Especially since the university “acts alone”, affirms Mike DeGagné, wanting to emphasize that the federation is not in the secret of the establishment’s decisions. “We’re caught in the middle of all this! »

Even if Mr. DeGagné says he “completely understands” the “reasoning” of the associations, he also believes that it is up to them to act “independently”. “The federation is not an umbrella for common concerns. »

This reluctance to accommodate members has caused a “pretty serious divide” with the federation, says Kirsten Anker. His colleague Mr. Muñiz-Fraticelli adds that the “frankly forced flexibility” shown by the organizer has pushed associations to consider ending their “affiliation”.

“And that’s not what we want,” he said. “We do not want to prevent the meeting of colleagues”, but that McGill does not benefit either financially or in terms of “reputation from the celebration of the conference”.

This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

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