While Principal Heather Munroe-Blum spoke to some of Montreal’s biggest corporate stakeholders about McGill’s continuing impact on Quebec, MUNACA strikers sought to make an impact of their own.
The lunch and talk, which was hosted by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, centered around “McGill’s heritage and its ongoing impact on the province of Quebec, the role of universities, research, and graduate diplomas as wealth drivers in our society,” according to a press release.
Eight MUNACA supporters, who individually rose from tables around the room to condemn the actions of the Principal – crying out “shame on McGill” and “please resolve the strike” – were quickly escorted out of the building by security.
Over 100 MUNACA strikers picketed outside of the Sheraton Centre on René-Lévesque Ouest during the lunch.
According to MUNACA VP Finance David Kalant, who was picketing outside, “[MUNACA] is here to send [Munroe-Blum] the message that we’re still on strike – she’s talking all about community at McGill, and we’re part of it, but right now we’re not really part of it.”
Munroe-Blum sat at a table of honour with other guests, including the chair of McGill’s Board of Governors Stuart Cobbett, and editor-in-chief of the Montreal Gazette Alan Allnutt.
Michel Leblanc, CEO and president of the Board of Trade, opened the lunch by explaining in French that schools, such as McGill, are “part of the wealth of Montreal.”
In speaking about the importance of financing universities, Leblanc pointed out McGill’s role as a leader in its recent changes to the MBA program – which included raising MBA tuition from just over $2,000 per year in 2009 to $32,500 this academic year.
“It is in our interest that we project internationally the quality of training that we can provide. In doing what we did with the MBA program, we did just that, and I congratulate McGill and Heather Munroe-Blum,” he said.
Munroe-Blum, who delivered her speech in both French and English, covered topics such as McGill’s underfunding, competition with other universities and countries, and the strength of the McGill community.
Minutes into her speech, one MUNACA supporter stood and yelled, “Heather Munroe-Blum, is this leadership? Sending in riot police to your campus. I was there that night on November 10. Is that your idea of community?”
Munroe-Blum continued her speech despite being interrupted every few minutes by similar union supporters around the room.
Referring to current difficulties being experienced by the global economy, Munroe-Blum stated in French that McGill, too, experiences “highs and lows, as is evident.”
“In such circumstances, it is good to look back and consider everything we’ve achieved. Fifty years ago, Quebec did not have an organized post-secondary education system… Today Quebec has an exceptional university system,” she said.
“Our economy is only as strong as our education system, and that system is only as strong as the people who support it,” she said. “Students, their families, employers who know the importance of an educated work force, and generous visionary community leaders must support our universities, along with stable, effective, predictable, government support.”
“When you are investing in education, you are investing in your economy … you are investing in healthy civil society,” she added.
Referring to a report that was released at the lunch by SECOR – a Canada-based international strategic management consulting firm – titled “Driving Excellence and Prosperity in Quebec,” Munroe-Blum stated that McGill’s “education and training of highly skilled people” increases Quebec’s productivity by nearly one billion dollars each year.
Kalant spoke to The Daily after the event, explaining that the protests, both in and outside of the building, had been planned throughout the week prior.
Although he did not know how the message was received, Kalant explained that, “the point being, the message was received. We got our message through.”
Kalant confirmed that the MUNACA supporters who spoke out at the lunch were free to leave without consequence after being escorted out of the building.