Potter quits McGill position over Maclean's article on Quebec's so-called 'social malaise'
Published Thursday, March 23, 2017 10:08AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 23, 2017 7:30PM EDT
Andrew Potter has stepped down from his role as Director of McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada, effective immediately.
Potter wrote a piece published Monday in Maclean’s magazine this week about the Highway 13 debacle in which he said it was a symptom of "social malaise" in the province.
The article outraged Quebecers, including Premier Philippe Couillard, who called it “deplorable" and an article "of poor quality based on prejudice."
A Parti Quebecois' spokesperson called it "Quebec-bashing."
On Thursday, Potter said that “in light of the ongoing negative reaction within the university community and the broader public” to the article, “I have submitted my resignation.” He will remain there as an associate professor.
In the piece, Potter described the incident that let 300 cars stranded on Highway 13 during a blizzard as a "mass breakdown in the social order," and said it was a sign that "Quebec is an almost pathologically alienated and low-trust society, deficient in many of the most basic forms of social capital that other Canadians take for granted."
He said that truckers who refused towing on Highway 13 and the absence of a person in charge of forcing them to clear the way demonstrated a lack of solidarity within Quebec society.
Potter went on to state that lack of trust can also be found in restaurants where diners are offered two types of invoices based on cash or electronic payments. He also suggested that this two-bill method was also used by family physicians and ultrasound clinics.
In his statement Thursday, Potter issued a mea culpa, saying, “I deeply regret many aspects of my column – its sloppy use of anecdotes, its tone, and the way it comes across as deeply critical of the entire province.”
Read the full statement of Potter's resignation here:
McGill University issued a notice Tuesday that Potter's article did not reflect the views or opinions of the university, and the Board of trustees of the McGill Institute for the study of Canada followed up Thursday with a statement saying it had accepted Potter’s resignation.
“The mission of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada is to promote a better understanding of Canada through the study of our heritage; to develop a clearer understanding of Canada's social, political and economic future; to identify and explore the benefits that a pluralistic society offers and to support the study of Canada across the country and internationally,” the statement read, adding that the institute will make no further statement regarding Potter’s resignation.
Later in the day the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University sent a note to "members of the McGill community" saying she would "like to acknowledge the contributions of Professor Potter and his courage in making this very difficult and painful decision."
Suzanne Fortier added that "Potter recognized that he had failed to uphold" the mission of the MISC to "promote a better understanding of Canada through the study of our heritage."
She added that the resignation had nothing to do with academic freedom, and reiterated the school's official policy regarding the principle.
Potter earned a BA in Philosophy at McGill University, and did post-doctoral research work at l'Université de Montreal. He worked at the Ottawa Citizen, Canadian Business, and Maclean's magazine between 2007 and 2016, when he was named Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.
Kevin Gould contributed to this article.