McGill Board member takes leave of absence

Media scrutiny over her and McGill’s role in the Quebec asbestos industry led to Roshi Chadha’s decision

Roshi Chadha, member-at-large on McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG), took a leave of absence last Thursday as media scrutiny mounts over her and McGill’s role in the Quebec asbestos industry.

Chadha is director of the export company Seja Trade Ltd., which exported asbestos – primarily to India – from the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec for 16 years, until the mine suspended operations last fall.

The company is a subsidiary of Balcorp Ltd., which is owned by her husband, Baljit Chadha. He sits on Concordia University’s Board of Governors.

Balcorp is seeking a $58-million loan from the Quebec government to re-open the Jeffrey Mine.

Roshi Chadha also took a leave of absence from her position on the Board of Directors of the St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation, and resigned from the Canadian Red Cross’s Board of Governors over two weeks ago.

Chadha said in a statement that she is proud of her contributions to the various boards, and that she expects to contribute again in the future.

“I have worked tirelessly in public institutions that are important to me, and I appreciate the many supportive messages that have demonstrated appreciation for my efforts,” she said.

“I do not want my personal and professional life to interfere with the governance and performance of institutions that are important to me and to society. My values, principles, integrity, and professional interests remain intact,” she continued.

Chadha has sat on McGill’s BoG since 2003 . Her second and final term as a member-at-large ends in 2013.

In a statement, Chair of the Board Stuart Cobbett said, “Mrs. Chadha is a distinguished senior volunteer in the McGill community, and has given years of sustained service to the University through a range of important roles and contributions.”

“We respect her wishes, though reluctantly, and look forward to her return,” he continued.

Ron Critchley, BoG administrative and support staff representative, said, “I’ve been extremely impressed by [Chadha’s] loyalty and dedication to the University.”

Kathleen Ruff, senior human rights advisor with the Ottawa-based  Rideau Institute, said she was surprised at McGill’s continued support of Chadha, citing international scientific consensus on health threats posed by asbestos.

“If you [play] a key role in an academic institution, you should show a commitment to the clear science, and to the clear scientific facts,” said Ruff. “Someone who is on the Board of Governors of McGill should be supporting the public interest.”