Andrew Potter resigns from McGill post after essay on Québec

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Andrew Potter resigns from McGill post after essay on Québec



Andrew Potter resigns from McGill post after Maclean's essay on Quebec

Andrew Potter, the director of McGill's Institute for the Study of Canada, has resigned from his post after penning an essay in Maclean's that argued "Quebec is an almost pathologically alienated and low-trust society." Potter faced widespread criticism for the article, including from Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who said it painted a "negative portrait" of the province "based on prejudices." [...]

McGill, which refused a request for an interview, has faced criticism of its own for its handling of the controversy. As Potter's column circulated earlier this week, the university said on Twitter that the views expressed in the column "do not represent those of McGill." That prompted another essay in Maclean's, by academic Emmett Macfarlane, arguing the university had "lost sight of the core principles by which it ought to [be] governed. "This may seem, on the surface, a relatively innocuous statement. But it is in fact a reprehensible attack on the core of the academic mission, and specifically on academic freedom," he wrote.


Kind of disturbing to think Potter was Editor of the Ottawa Citizen or maybe it just shows that the press is not what it's cracked up to be.  

It was shoddy journalism that cost Andrew Potter his job at McGill

The former Ottawa Citizen editor failed to let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada is not a run-of-the-mill university department. A significant part of its mission is to contribute to the larger Quebec conversation. McGill’s rather unique position at one of the key junction points on the language map makes that contribution essential.

It would have been hard going forward for someone who is — for now at least — widely perceived as willing to think the worst of Quebec and Quebecers to operate the institute to its full potential.


Excellent article by Chantal Hébert. Cuts through much of the crap, as she often does.

And hey... does this mean that my newly-opened thread finally showed up? Better a day late than never at all!



We're all baffled by the StatsCan survey finding out that us Quebecers are loners with no friends (learned from Potter). Or we wouldn't expect to get a lost wallet back--I've got to ask around about that. But Potter should realize that when there are unions that try to fight the power, that's social solidarity.

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

CTV producer Barry Wilson in his weekly opinion piece called out Quebecers as ' thin skinned'  about this anti-Quebec article.

My question to Wilson is,his open disdain and ROC opinions of Quebec is simple ; Why don't you move?

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

CTV Montreal is still CFCF channel 12 IMO. It's still Repulse News.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

"My question to Wilson is, his open disdain and ROC opinions of Quebec is simple ; Why don't you move?"

My question to you is why to you hate Canadians? A citizen of your province insults his fellow Quebec citizens and you think it is an opportunity to insult people from outside of Quebec. He is your  bigot and frankly he can stay in Montreal. With people like you to argue with he is where he belongs. His views are a mirror of yours and they are not shared by the vast majority of Canadians and only a bigot would think that they are.


The point is that the person mentioned hates Québécois while living here. Nobody has mentioned hating Canadians. 

You really don't "get" the national question, and there is no point in arguing about it. You seem to confuse the Québécois people with the CPR barons from the Golden Square Mile, who were colonial overlords here. 



kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Alan said; "his open disdain and ROC opinions of Quebec"

His opinions of Quebec are not ROC opinions they are the opinions of a bigoted Quebecer. Why the fuck should his asshole column be a reason to smear other residents of Canada with his bigotry. You and Alan are stuck in a time warp where the majority of Candians outside of Quebec are anti-French. That view is dated and untrue and I will keep calling people on it. In BC our bigots hate Asians and First Nations they don't care about Quebec. On my coast many but not most people dislike Albertans few people think about Quebecers. When you use the term ROC and attempt to sterotype every resident of that mythical place as an anti-Quebec bigot its disgusting to the actual residents of other provinces.

Please leave us out of your internal squabbles. He is a Quebec bigot and your responsibility not ours.



Oh, fuck off and die. I am sick of your anti-Québécois bigotry dressed up as something more noble. 


Kropotkin, you're a friend and ally. But when it comes to Québec, for whatever reason, you're not. Oh, and your thing about "anti-French"? Edit or delete that. It's really unwarranted. I'm a Québécois. So is lagatta. So is alan smithee. We are not "French". Take a breath and get a life. Be an ally.

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

What lagatta and Unionist said.

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

BTW,if you were to watch CTV Montréal News,every week Mr.Wilson finds something,anything to bash Québec,our shared values and its culture. If you're  looking for a bigot,you can find one every Friday on channel 12 (CTV Montréal)

His open hostility against Québec society,mostly directed at the French speaking majority,social-democracy and the Independence question leaves me to question what the hell is he doing living here. He should move to somewhere else,somewhere English that share his values. You call me a bigot,I respectfully think you're a....forget it. Think what you like.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture


He should move to somewhere else, somewhere English that share his values

Why is okay to say this bigot has ROC opinons about Quebec. They are fucking bigoted opinions that have nothing to fucking do with Moncton or Vancouver or Toronto or Ottawa. They are an opinion from a Montreal resident. If Alan hadn't referred to his crap as a ROC opinion I would not have said anything. We are not all fucking bigoted like your Anglo assholes in Quebec. He speaks for angry Quebece bigots not anyone else in Canada. Please stop sterotyping other residents of Canada as being bigoted against Quebec.  

Unionist look at the language that Alan uses it is the French /English crap. I did not use it first. Yes you are all Quebecois and so is that English asshole who wrote the column or have I somehow missed how your nation works? That is what pisses me off, Alan can believe that somewhere else in Canada this bigoted assholes views are shared by the people living there. They are not and it was a unnecesary nasty slur against eveeryone outside of Quebec. Who the fuck needs that?


No, it was an attack on someone who lives here while holding the population in contempt, when he could obviously afford to live elsewhere. And nobody is "anti-Canadian". 

It is odd, because I usually look forward to reading what you have to say, in particular because you teach us a lot about the social history of BC which many of us know far too little about (although I do have friends there who are also veteran activists). 

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

A bigoted Manitoban, actually.

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

Again. What lagatta said. I will agree with you that I painted with a broad brush but the fact is,Wilson's views are the same as ex-AngloQuebecers in Ontario. And Alberta? Really? I watched Conan O'Brien's show when he took his show to Toronto. All the jokes about Québec and the endlesss cheering when a casual slur was mentioned. Triumph the Insult Dog went to Québec City (He should have gone to Montréal,he'd have a rude awakening) and if you're not familiar with his act,he lives up to his name. Speaking with unilingual French Québécois and mocking them for not understanding what he was saying or taking advantage by insulting them as they said they didn't undersdtand.And the grand finale was Triumph changing the names of streets to something 'funny' and the biggest cheer was when he changed the name of one street to Quebequeer. I don't know who started that but my guess is it wasn't any Anglo or Franco- Québécois. I've seen that word used on many comment boards including CTV and TSN.

And Alberta? Oh,they just loooove Québec. LOL c'mon.

Barry Wilson should join Howard Galganov and move if he hates and disrespects Québec society. He's a television producer who probably lives in Upper Westmount. He can afford to go and get another gig on TV news in Ontario or Alberta,2 places where he'd have no problem finding people who share his same views of Québec. I'm sorry that the truth hurts.

Where did I attack Canada? And where did I attack all Canadians?  I tell it like it is,I'm sorry that offends you.


Sadly, Howard Galganov doesn't live in Upper Westmount. Last I had news about that guy, he was claiming to be a political exile and lives in the Scottish, French and Mohawk region of the extreme eastern point of Ontario, in one of the little towns north of Cornwall between the St-L and the Ottawa rivers. And believe it or not, he spends his time harassing FRANCO-ONTARIANS, and fighting for English-only signage policies. Now, of course Franco-Ontarians are most likely federalists, so his bigotry has nothing to do with saving Confederation. 

Reading over the hate comments about any story about Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois in the Gazette, one would think that he was at the least a terrorist who had murdered a schoolyard full of children and tortured kittens. And as for the "queer" stuff, just look at the comments about Manon Massé, but there it would be a chorus of Gazette and Journal de Montréal commenters... 

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

Galganov is a blowhard and a true bigot. I'm glad he moved. But I sympathize with the people in the Cornwall area or whereever it is he's living under a rock. I'd venture to say that the short lived  Equality Party was created by people like Galganov and his groupies from back in the day. I was delighted when that party dissolved. They were a joke and an embarrassment to the anglo community.


I notice that Chantal Hebert managed to make her very good points without any assumptions about the rest of Canada, or saying that bigots should all go there where their ideas belong. 

Look, I wouldn't phrase it quite as kropotkin has, and I know no one here hates Canadians, and I know the shit only hit the fan after he brought it up. But I do get his point. If you want to find bigots you are going to find them everywhere, and that includes every part of Canada and Quebec, expecially in the media.

But if anyone imagines that people here all hate Quebec, get over yourself. No, people here in the prairies don't actually care. Whatever bigoted trip this guy who grew up in Quebec is on, it is his trip. We don't want his attitudes any more than you do.

And if people don't want others to make false assumptions about Quebec, well don't make false assumptions about those from other places.


voice of the damned

In my experience, also from the prairies, there IS anti-Quebec sentiment, but it's closely tied in with anti-French sentiment generally, which targets non-Quebec francophone communities just as viciously, if not moreso, than it targets Quebec. And the focus is usually on what Quebec and the French generally are alleged to be doing to the rest of the country(often via federal government programs like bilingualism and transfer-payments) not on the internal policies of the Quebec government.

The closest you might get to concern about internal policies is people expressing sympathy with the anglo minority in Quebec, with the sympathizer, more often than not, unaware that this puts him on the same page as the much-villified Pierre Trudeau. But there is very little interest in the kind of issues Potter seems to have been writing about, eg. how the government handled a snowstorm, or whether Quebec counts as a "low-trust society".




Sure. As I said, there are bigots everywhere.

But I don't think anyone appreciates it when someone falsely claims bigotry is something particular to Quebec society. It is no more accurate when applied to other places.  

As for how things are here, I do remember in the 70s and 80s when some were freaking out about bilingualism, separate schools and French language education (in some cases because they thought other languages should come first). That is not something I have heard here in a very long time from anyone other than cranks. When Kevin O'Leary was too cowardly to take part in the French language debate I didn't hear anyone rushing to his defense, or saying it was an unfair expectation.

So how about we agree that these cranks and bigots are out of touch, and leave it at that. Turning it into an argument about whose society is worse doesn't help any of us deal with this common problem.


The way I see it is this. Canadian law (the Clarity Act) doesn't allow Québec to exercise its self-determination, because it gives the federal government an effective veto, by allowing it to decide that the ballot question wasn't clear enough, or the majority wasn't big enough. That would be cured by (for example) turning the NDP's Sherbrooke Declaration into law. When that happens, then Québec's residual colonial status will be gone, at least in the political sense. Then any complaints about "ROC" prejudice will be no more damning than complaints about Québec prejudice (and believe me, there is no shortage of prejudice and bigotry in these here parts).

So it's absolutely true that there is bigotry and prejudice everywhere in our fair land. It's unfortunate that the conversation above became toxic just because of a throwaway comment by one babbler about "ROC", which prompted a defensive reaction from another, and we've seen this scene before.

Can we agree that Andrew Potter's article (and I don't personally give a shit where he lives, as if that makes the slightest difference) was toxic, xenophobic, false, denigrating, about Québec? If we're not agreed on that point, then at least, let's make the debate on that. Not on who is more bigoted than whom. We're all guilty as charged. It's just that my biases are correct, and all yours are wrong.

EDITED TO ADD: Whoops, I just ended up in violent agreement with Smith's last post, I believe! I'd better review my argument...


Yeah. Better retract that right away or it will confirm everything I have always known to be true about you people.

Back to it, if this wasn't complicated enough, McGill is now facing questions about whether it all went down in the right way, and if there is an academic freedom issue. I am sure this will come to a resolution that will satisfy everyone:

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

In my defense,I was referring to people like Potter,Barry Wilson and now ex-pat Howard Galganov. It's simple,they hate Québec,they hate its values,they hate our laws and they look down on our society. I made a simple question. What the hell are they doing here? If I felt the same way and had their income,I'd be out of here in a heart beat. I read Québec bashing shit all the time on talk radio,the Gazette,CTV News and even quasi-federalist conservative rags like le Journal.

I read hockey news on TSN and have seen the Québec bashing (the clever 'Quebequeers' comment ad nauseum) I don't think I'm crazy. I think there is a palpable anti-Québec sentiment in Canada and a certain anti-francophone sentiment in exhibit 'A' Canadian demi-god Don Cherry for example. Potter and his ilk,these being Québec citizens,who never miss a chance to trash Québec should move. That's my point. And I don't think they'd have a hard time finding like minded people in their journies.


I don't know alan. Why did Richler stay after writing that book? Maybe because it is his home?

Better to get off this tangent, but just because someone has criticism about a place, baseless or not, discriminatory or not, doesn't mean they don't belong there. And it certainly doesn't justify saying that he is someone else's problem. We get enough of that "if you don't like it you can leave" from those on the right wing.

Criticise his ideas if you want (and I'd agree) but that is not an argument.


To follow up on Hébert's column, his cherrypicked stats aside, is this even about Quebec, or is Potter just making it up based on his assumptions about Montreal? And I have heard plenty of gross generalizations about plenty of places, but what possessed Macleans to let him give them any weight by publishing them? They bear just as much of the responsibility for this for letting him get away with it.


Nowadays people here are generally cool about Mordechai Richler having the Mile-End Library bear his name, as well as a mural on Laurier W. in the Mile-End segment before Laurier. He said VERY nasty things about francophone Québécois (and especially Québécoises) not just about his political enemies the Québec sovereignists. I know that he said equally nasty things about Ashkenazi Jewish people here, but no, that is not the same, just as Lionel Groulx's nasty comments about Jewish people here are far more reprehensible than Richler's. And no, it is not just the matter of "being from the same tribe", but the palpable danger of racist violence. 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

We get enough of that "if you don't like it you can leave" from those on the right wing.

You've got to admit, though, that there's a certain logic to it.

If everyone who doesn't like it moves away, we're left with a happy populace who likes it!  And voting with your feet surely shows a greater engagement in the process than voting with an HB pencil!


Whatever the PMO’s role, if any, the shame in this matter is primarily on McGill University itself. The reassurance from McGill’s brass that academic freedom is alive and well despite Potter’s death-by-columnizing is farcical. Sean Spicer, liar-in-chief for President Trump, should have delivered that whopper, not Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier.

There is not a professor in the country who believes her after what happened to Potter. That is a tragedy for one of the country’s great universities.

No wonder the institution ended its one public statement on this scandal by saying they would have no further comment. Sounds a little like Justin Trudeau on the mysterious removal of Vice Admiral Mark Norman, or Stephen Harper on just about everything when he was prime minister.

You just can’t dump people, however creatively that fact is expressed, and then say no more questions. McGill should inform the public exactly what transpired in the time between the publication of the article and Potter’s shabby demise.



From josh's linked article: "McGill should inform the public exactly what transpired in the time between the publication of the article and Potter’s shabby demise."

Um, no. If Andrew Potter was fired from the institute (he retains his associate professor job with McGill) or pressured to quit, let him say so. It's really not up to McGill to prove a negative. If Potter was turfed and too cowardly to go public with that, then my opinion of him - formed by reading his trash-talk article - is confirmed.

Michael Harris, whom I respect for much of his other work, amazingly manages to miss the one unconscionable thing McGill is known, proven, to have done in this matter so far. They put out a tweet saying Potter's article didn't represent McGill's views. That's it. And Harris, in his rush to judgment, didn't even bring along the one piece of evidence that isn't just speculation, hyperbole, and gossip.

This isn't about academic freedom. It might well be about privately-funded "institutes" with shadowy mandates (in this case, stopping the fkn separatists), operating under the prestigious cover of a university. Maybe those institutes should be either: 1) full-fledged subordinate bodies of appropriate faculties, treated and funded as such; or alternatively: 2) told to take their business off campus.


The interview on The Current this morning was amusing. Some good points, some not so good points. Having Jan Wong on there probably did not help. On the other side, there was a point at which everyone was trying really hard to avoid saying "anglophone".

The comment toward the end that it would have been better to leave it at correcting mistakes was right. There is no adequate solution to this murkier stuff. Case in point... where it is all going now.

Thing is, someone actually managed to upstage him.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

There's a trailing space at the end of that link.

Also, Whisky Tango Foxtrot?


Ah. Thx.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Personally, I think McLaren has been doing OK, as far as scandals and such go.

Speaking as a male, if I were to write about the time I was basically interrupted seconds before putting one of my erogenous zones in an infant's mouth for my own gratification, I expect I'd be waiting for the guards to slide my meal tray through the door slot right about now.

But I did kind of laugh at that one tweet referencing "Girls" -- presumably really referencing Lena Dunham's discussion about the time she pretty much fingered her baby sister.

I'm thinking of launching a new social media site called "Blurter".  It'll be almost exactly like Twitter, right down to the 140 characters, but will ONLY be for totally inappropriate and unnecessary admissions that humankind once considered cringe-worthy.


The Canadian Association of University Teachers has opened an investigation into the case.


Potter does not have tenure at McGill - he was given a three-year faculty appointment.  So while he does remain on staff despite giving up his directorship he in no way enjoys the protection of a real "associate professor", like I do.

Personally I would be surprised if he stayed there beyond a few months.


Don MacPherson's article got a nod in that Current panel discussion. Not surprising.

He doesn't get into the fact that there are real anti-Quebec pressures and discrimination, so there are in fact differences between the two cases. On the other hand, he is also right about there being a double standard, especially since Potter grew up in Quebec and speaks and has taught in French. Unfortunately not everyone is going to recognize (along with the fact it was a dumb article) those two realities.

Or better still, not go there at all... another thing Chantal Hébert was right about.


I agree with your take on MacPherson, but I wonder where you got the idea Potter grew up in Quebec.  Andrew Coyne said the same thing, but it isn`t true.  Potter is from Manitoba, did high school at Glebe Collegiate in Ottawa, then his BA at McGill, and his MA and Phd at U of T.  He did a post-doc (they are usually two yers) at l'U de Montréal, and  taught at Trent for several years before becoming editor of the Ottawa Citizen.  He started as director of the centre at McGill in 2016.  So all in all he spent a maximum of 6 years in Montreal before his current position, which is a fair amount of time, but he clearly didn`t learn a lot from his time there.




Actually you are right, and thanks for the correction. Don't know what I pulled up online, but when I initially looked what I got was someone born in Nova scotia who moved to Montreal as a child. This puts a different spin on things.

For one thing, I am much more surprised that he wrote the article at all.


Not quite the same issue, but I really liked this article by Konrad Yakabuski, who is not usually someone with whom I agree; isn't he a Con?

But it is important to point out that modern francophone culture here also draws upon a significant component from the "Arab world" (Maghreb and Levant), Haiti and also the French Antilles, and West Africa, as well as others more drawn to francophone culture such as many Latin Americans. 

The attitudes of the new wave of young, educated immigrants from France are very different from the legendary supercilious "Maudit Français" of the postwar years. 


That was very funny. And it points out (without him explicitly saying so) that there are other dynamics at play. There is a difference when it concerns someone whose rhetoric is rightly or wrongly seen as part of wider political and cultural oppression.

I can think of plenty of examples of people being frustrated and amused by how things are done in certain places. I have felt it in B.C., and in Alberta, and I am sure some people feel it coming here. And there are certainly places where people are more sensitive to how they are seen than other places. Of course those places don't have the same anti-sovereignty and anti-francophone context as Quebec.

One question I have is where this situation is on the continuum between non-Indigenous people publicly criticizing how things are done on First Nations, and the fact we all have carte blanche to laugh at Toronto for calling out the army to shovel snow.




Perhaps because Toronto is the largest city in Canada, the financial and business centre, and capital of the largest province? And also because, after Vancouver, Victoria and other cities in southern BC, and those in southwestern Ontario, one of the Canadian cities with the mildest winters?

And because Indigenous communities have been subjected to colonisation, assimilation and sometimes outright genocide for over 500 years? 

It doesn't mean that non-Indigenous people can't laugh and have to approach Indigenous topics with deep and mournful solemnity, but that they must laugh with the Indigenous peoples - who have plenty to say about mismanagement, incompetence and nepotism - not at them. And walk a mile in their mocassins or mukluks, though nowadays they wear the same winter boots as anyone else here. 


I agree completely. I'm not raising those examples to discount the issues in this case, and certainly not to apologize for Potter. But I am raising the question of where this lies on that continuum. Because it is complicated.

And I am not looking for a hard answer, because there is none. But I am pointing out that we should think about it. I don't live there, so it is kind of irrelevant for me, but I think it might be an important question for you. We have our own versions of the same thing, so I don't mean it as a concern troll, even if it might sound like it.