Wednesday, April 14, 2004

TRUDEAU AT UofT, NO LAURIER AT McGILL

The University of Toronto has announced that it will name its Centre for Peace and Conflict studies after Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. This is great and rather remarkable. It is great because, in my opinion, there can't be enough public honourng of Trudeau's legacy. My own personal suggestion is to name the Trans-Canada Trail after him. For a Prime Minister who so much enjoyed, and was so committed to, the Canadian wilderness (he was the first PM to visit the North) such an honour seems particularly fitting. It would have the added benifit of getting his name on dozens of Parks Canada signs across Alberta. But I digress from the point I had originally inteded to make.

The naming of this centre is somewhat remarkable becasue Trudeau is not a graduate of the UofT nor has he or his family donated any money to the university. Obviously, there is still the advantage of co-opting such a widely known and prestigious Canadian name, but still.

This will be one of the few times I say this but I think McGill could take a lesson from the UofT here. At McGill I do not know if it is an outright stated policy, but it is fairly well understood these days, that the only way to get a building, or anything for that matter, named after you is to pay for it yourself. For example, back in the early 1980s McGill students held a referendum on what to name the new Students' Centre building. In a unique and somewhat hilarious choice the student body voted, fairly overwhelmingly, to name their building after McGill alumnus William Shatner. However, because the intrepid Mr. Shatner had not donated any cash to his alma mater the McGill Senate refused to ratify the decision of the students. To this day the Students' Society building is know by all as 'the Shatner Building' except by the university administration.

Now I'm not so concerned about the Shatner Building. Whether the university recognizes it or not the name has stuck. What I am concerned about is a much more prestigious alumnus. The late Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier was a graduate of McGill University's law school. Most other schools, if they had an alumnus who happened to be one of the greatest political leaders the country has ever known would find something to name in his honour. Not McGill. We have no Laurier building, no Laurier Scholarship, not even a Laurier reading room or park bench.

McGill really doesn't need anything else named after the Bronfmans, Molsons or McConnels. I'm sure we can find something to name after such a well known and important alumnus as Laurier. We do have a new residence that is waiting for a name.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:10 AM