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McGill University’s Principal and Vice Chancellor Suzanne Fortier: ‘McGill did not fail to defend the academic freedom of Professor Andrew Potter, who resigned from his position as director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC). Moreover, rumours of external pressure on McGill University are untrue.’ (Graham Hughes For The Globe and Mail)
McGill University’s Principal and Vice Chancellor Suzanne Fortier: ‘McGill did not fail to defend the academic freedom of Professor Andrew Potter, who resigned from his position as director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC). Moreover, rumours of external pressure on McGill University are untrue.’ (Graham Hughes For The Globe and Mail)

WHAT READERS THINK

March 25: McGill speaks out on Andrew Potter. Plus other letters to the editor Add to ...

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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McGill speaks out on Andrew Potter

Re Has McGill Hurt Academic Freedom? (editorial, March 24): McGill did not fail to defend the academic freedom of Professor Andrew Potter, who resigned from his position as director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC). Moreover, rumours of external pressure on McGill University are untrue.

Academic freedom is the foundation of any university, and is at the heart of McGill’s mission. The situation with Prof. Potter did not hinge on the question of academic freedom; it hinged on whether he could continue to effectively carry out his responsibilities as director of MISC. Academics with administrative positions, such as the director of an institute, have a leadership duty and a responsibility to represent their organization. They are understood to be doing so unless they specify clearly that the views they are expressing are their own and not those of their organization. The article having been penned under the authorship of director of MISC made it difficult for Prof. Potter to carry on with his responsibilities as director of the Institute, which he himself acknowledged.

Prof. Potter has resigned from his administrative duties as director, and remains a professor at McGill, enjoying all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of that position. In that role, McGill will defend his right to academic freedom as it does with all members of its scholarly community.

Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice Chancellor, McGill University

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Andrew Potter’s ‘resignation’

Re McGill Under Fire Over Handling Of Administrator’s Resignation (March 24): A sketch titled The Wrong Number in Steve Martin’s Cruel Shoes describes the many ways he considered making amends for all the distress he caused by dialling the wrong number.

First, he thought the best way to make restitution would be to empty out his savings account, sell off his holdings, and hand over the cash to the “victim” of the wrong number.

Then he realized he could go much further toward repairing the damage he caused than simply parting with his money. He decided he would forthwith depart for Tibet, to embark there upon a spiritual odyssey of many years’ duration, from which he would return to share with his “victim” all the spiritual wisdom and useful insights he’d acquired during his Tibetan sojourn.

We’re not quite there yet in terms of the hurt and reparation ratio, but I predict that at this rate by 2020 we will be. Andrew Potter’s resignation as director for the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada brings us a step closer.

Orest Slepokura, Strathmore, Alta.

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While I heartily concur that the powers that be at McGill University merit universal chastisement for their failure to defend academic freedom, perhaps this is not their gravest error.

Mere days after national publication of Andrew Potter’s critique of Quebeckers’ response to the recent snowstorm fiasco, Mr. Potter has willingly confessed that his column contained “errors and exaggerations” which, moreover, he claims he regrets having made.

Such behaviour on the part of a serious academic can only be termed outrageous. If this is truly the case, then his very appointment at McGill is called into question.

Alan Scrivener, Cornwall, Ont.

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Alarm bells over China trade

Re Beijing Pushing For Full Access To Canada’s Economy In Trade Talks (March 24): China’s new Ambassador to Canada is right: Human rights should not be a bargaining chip in any free trade deal. How would that work anyway?

Who would calculate how many dissidents would be released from “re-education camps” for every resource company bought?

Which torture techniques would be banned for access to our R&D and intellectual property?

After four decades, it is time to declare the policy of “engagement” with China an unmitigated failure. It is true that trade with the West has lifted billions of Chinese out of poverty. At the same time, freedom and the rule of law in China is at a low. Extraterritorial kidnappings, repression of minorities and an execution rate second to none has been the norm, and is getting worse.

We should have learned our lesson from the giddy rush to invest in Russia post-glasnost. You cannot do business in a country without a functioning judicial system and where laws are whatever the rulers say they are.

Call it “human rights” if you want, but how a country treats its own people should set off plenty of alarm bells.

Bill Hall, Toronto

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Half-measures help better-off

As the father who took the then-Canada Employment and Immigration Commission to court to win employment insurance benefits for all parents, I am disappointed with the half-measure in the budget that is supposed to help parents.

Like a number of other items in this budget, the extension of the period to 18 months during which parental benefits can be claimed will only assist the better-off in society. Only those with enough savings in the bank can afford to take off the full 18 months at a lower benefit rate.

By not extending the weeks of paid benefits at current rates, the budget is making this extra time inaccessible to those who need the federal income support in order to pay the bills while they they are off from paid employment and instead are performing the valuable act of caring for their newborn or adopted child.

Given the surpluses in the Employment Insurance account, the government could have provided the additional six months of support with little increase if any in EI premiums.

Shalom Schachter (Schachter v Canada, Supreme Court Judgments, 1992-07-09); Toronto

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Food safety and Brazil’s exports

Re Chinese Supermarkets Pull Brazil Meat From Shelves As Food-Safety Fears Grow (Report on Business, March 23): This article may leave readers with the misleading impression that there is a wide ban on imports of meat products from Brazil in several countries, including Canada.

Out of 4,837 establishments subject to federal inspection in Brazil, only 21 meatpacking units are allegedly involved in irregularities.

As a safety measure, those units had their export authorizations immediately suspended by the Government of Brazil. Only two of those units had permission to export to Canada, and they have not done so for the past six months. Imports of meat continue normally for the 102 other meat establishments from Brazil approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The Government of Brazil works closely with Canadian food inspection authorities. All exporting plants in Brazil remain open to foreign inspection and to the monitoring of the national control system. The Brazilian agriculture and livestock defence system’s rigour is recognized around the world.

Denis Fontes de Souza Pinto, Ambassador of Brazil to Canada

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