“Global vision”: Professor Richard Gold said that Toope would be a perfect fit as McGill’s next principal.Louis Ashworth/Varsity

A professor at McGill University has said that Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope would be a perfect candidate to lead the Canadian institution.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail, Professor Richard Gold said Toope has the “global vision” that he thinks McGill should have from its next principal.

Gold added that the Montreal-based university needs “new leadership that goes beyond, ‘Let’s not upset Quebec City’” after Dr Suzanne Fortier steps down as principal in August 2022.

Toope, who is Canadian and previously served as dean of McGill’s law faculty, announced in September that he would bow out as Vice-Chancellor at the end of the summer, two years before the end of his term.

He cited separation from family and friends during the pandemic as his main reason for leaving Cambridge early, saying that “the upheaval of COVID has led me to reassess my own years ahead from a personal perspective”.

An advisory committee will recommend potential successors to Fortier to McGill’s Board of Governors, with the new Principal named in the autumn.

Like that of Toope, Fortier’s time at the helm has been marked by free speech controversies. In 2017, she was criticised in the Canadian media when Professor Andrew Potter resigned from his job after writing a contentious op-ed.

Fortier justified Potter’s resignation by saying that McGill’s role was “not to provoke, but to promote good discussion.”

In 2019, Toope was Vice-Chancellor when the Faculty of Divinity rescinded its visiting fellowship to rightwing academic Jordan Peterson.

While Toope didn’t take the decision, he said at the time that he personally believed in “a community that values respect for all others.”

In 2020, the University’s existing free speech policy, which enshrined “respect” for others’ opinions, was replaced by one demanding “tolerance” after amendments by philosophy don Arif Ahmed were backed by over three-quarters of his colleagues in a Regent House vote.


Mountain View

Professor Stephen Toope to complete his term as Vice-Chancellor in 2022

Cambridge’s international partnerships have also attracted media criticism throughout Toope’s tenure.

Links with China in particular have come under scrutiny, with The Times reporting claims that tech giant Huawei had “infiltrated” the Cambridge Centre for Chinese Management, and revealing that the UK-China Global Issues Dialogue Centre at Jesus College had accepted a six-figure research grant from the company.

A recent freedom of information request from The Spectator found that the company has given the University £25.7 million in research grants or donations since 2016.

In June 2021, Varsity broke the news that the University was discussing a deal worth £400 million with the United Arab Emirates. Toope told this paper in October that the proposals were “on hold” following concerns over the UAE’s use of Pegasus spyware.

Varsity approached Professor Stephen Toope for comment.