Organizers of the McGill Science & Policy Exchange were made aware last week that the key endnote speaker for the event, Thomas Mulcair, would not be attending the event.
MP for Outremont and deputy leader for the NDP, Mulcair backed out Monday morning due to concerns about crossing picket lines formed by striking workers in the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA).
“He said that as a matter of principle he would not cross picket lines, and if he had to, he would not be able to speak,” said Jonathan Mooney, one of the conference organizers.
“We got in touch with MUNACA and Mulcair and were in open communication all Tuesday to see what we would be able to do,” he continued.
The organizers spent Tuesday in negotiations with Mulcair’s office trying to reach a solution that suited both Mulcair and the Exchange. “What we were able to do was move the entire speech to a different spot entirely, from the Faculty Club to Thomson House,” said Mooney.
By Tuesday night the organizers, MUNACA, and Mulcair had come to a compromise that would allow Mulcair to fulfill his role as endnote speaker without crossing the picket lines. It was decided that the majority of the Exchange would occur at its original venue in the Faculty club, then a break would allow attendees to make their way to the Thomson House.
Thomson House is home to the McGill Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), who issued a statement of support for MUNACA workers on strike at their most recent Council meeting.
“We [the exchange] are supported by PGSS who supports MUNACA, so it really is a chain of support and respect,” said Janet Price, another organizer of the event.
Price added that, “Mr. Mulcair actually addressed the picket lines before he went into Thomson House, so he was able to respect us by coming to speak as well as respecting [MUNACA].”
“He never actually said that he [could] not come, it was that he had issues with the venue that we had chose previously,” said Monika Rak, another conference organizer. “This was a nice little in-between.”
The Science & Policy Exchange is put on by graduate and post-doctoral fellows at McGill and is run completely by volunteers. The theme for this year’s conference, held at the McGill Faculty Club, was “Quebec’s Future Research: Economy and Society.”