Come Take the Streets: Royal Vic for All!
September 21, 2021
Dear Student Body: Come take the streets!
What is happening?
In 2015, the Royal Victoria Hospital, located North-West of McGill’s downtown campus, was decommissioned with the construction of a new super-hospital in NDG. Much of the former hospital, occupying 1.4 million square feet of public land, is now under the management of the Quebec government. McGill has since been given more than 500,000 square feet of this public land and is planning to demolish a portion of the site and expand their campus. This expansion would include classrooms, a library, and research labs. However, in formulating their plans for the site, McGill did not conduct thorough consultations with students and community members. This oversight occurred in the context of ecological, housing, and financial crises in which large disposable plots of land are deeply needed. In reality, McGill’s plans for the site were devised in coordination with obscure institutional bodies: the “Principal’s RVH task force, RVH working groups, and senior administrators.”
In 2020, an open letter signed by more than 55 community organizations, including the SSMU, condemned the Quebec government’s decision to give a significant portion of the site to McGill university, a decision made “without any consultation with civil society or local citizens, and without debate in the National Assembly.” On September 26th, SSMU will be taking to the streets, and joining these organizations in a public march.
Even with community pushback, members of McGill’s “New Vic” project did not reach out to SSMU or students for a good-faith consultation process on the Royal Vic’s repurposing. The Quebec government granted the University $37 million in financial aid to develop a plan for its repurposing of the site. The University did not use any of these considerable funds to carry out such consultations, nor did they financially support the “Our Royal Vic” grassroots community consultation process, which they had been informed was underway and in need of monetary aid.
McGill insists that it has carried out a process of consultation with the community. However, upon demand, SSMU could not obtain a copy of a formal analysis of these consultations. Instead, the majority of these “consultations”— as was the “New Vic Project Town Hall” hosted by the administration at the end of August — appear to have been performative and a clear effort to save face. Hence, SSMU has since unlisted itself as an internal stakeholder in the New Vic project.
Additionally, given McGill’s blatant lack of consultation with students, the SSMU is skeptical that McGill has properly consulted Indigenous communities regarding this land grant and planned management of a portion of so-called Mount Royal. “Mount Royal” is the unceded territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation as well as a historic burial ground for the nation. Consultations with Indigenous communities are of utmost importance, especially in the context of a growing decolonial land back movement. The primary decision making power over the reoccupation of this land and its future projects should be the prerogative of relevant Indigenous communities.
McGill has performed a grave error by ignoring recent calls by students and Montreal’s larger community for the old Royal Victoria site to be repurposed democratically. A similar lack of student input on major university decisions has been displayed, most recently, in the school’s approach to COVID-19 precautions and in its management of its endowment, which invests substantially in the fossil fuel industry and companies linked to human rights abuses.
Therefore, on September 26th, from 2-4pm, we invite the Student body to attend a public protest to demonstrate for a democratic and ecological repurposing of the Royal Vic.
Vice-President (External Affairs)