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Author of article in Maclean’s about Quebec malaise resigns from McGill institute

Academic resigns after Maclean's article backlash

MONTREAL — The author of a controversial article about Quebec that appeared in Maclean’s magazine this week has stepped down from his post at McGill University.

Andrew Potter said in a social media post Thursday his resignation as director of the Institute for the Study of Canada was effective immediately.

Potter described Quebec in the article as a “pathologically alienated and low-trust society” with a glaring absence of solidarity.

It stated the events surrounding the recent massive snowstorm that saw 300 cars stranded overnight on a major Montreal highway revealed a malaise that is “eating away at the foundations of Quebec society.”

It prompted a backlash on social media and from Quebec politicians of all stripes, including Premier Philippe Couillard, who lambasted the article as deplorable and based on prejudice.

The indignation reached the House of Commons where federal politicians also piled on, with a Bloc Quebecois MP describing the story as “Quebecophobia.”

Potter later wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday he regretted what he called errors and exaggerations in his article and that he went too far in his description of Quebec society as alienated.

He repeated Thursday he is sorry about much of the content in the piece.

“I deeply regret many aspects of the column — its sloppy use of anecdotes, its tone, and the way it comes across as deeply critical of the entire province,” Potter wrote. “That wasn’t my intention, it doesn’t reflect my views of Quebec, and I am heartbroken that the situation has evolved the way it has.”

He wrote that the decision to resign came amid “ongoing negative reaction within the university community and the broader public” since the article appeared online Monday.

The resignation note was dated Wednesday.

Potter said the institute post was a “dream job of a lifetime” but that the credibility of the institute will be best served by his departure.

McGill University said it accepted the resignation but that Potter will remain an associate professor in the faculty of arts.

The board of trustees recognized Potter’s contribution to the institute and said there would be no further comment on his resignation.

Earlier this week, the university moved to dissociate itself from Potter and the views he expressed.

Potter’s resignation resulted in heavy criticism against McGill about academic freedom amid rumours he was forced to resign.

It prompted a statement late Thursday from Suzanne Fortier, McGill’s principal and vice-chancellor.

She lauded Potter’s courage for making the “very painful and difficult” decision to resign and said the university remains committed to helping him transition from his previous role.

“His resignation provoked unfounded rumours and concerns regarding academic freedom,” Fortier said. “I want to assure members of the McGill community that academic freedom is a foundational principle of McGill University.”

 

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press