Dalai Lama to address Quebec education students at McGill

By Chris Chipello

On Oct. 3, the Dalai Lama will meet with 500 Education students from six Quebec universities in McGill’s Pollack Hall. Prof. Spencer Boudreau, until recently Associate Dean in the Faculty of Education, has coordinated preparations for the visit of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Prof. Boudreau took time out from his new duties as Ombudsperson to explain how McGill became the host for this unique event, co-sponsored by the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Religious Studies.

How did the Dalai Lama’s visit to McGill in October come about?

The committee organizing the visit of the Dalai Lama to Montreal – one committee member whom I knew previously in the education world, because he was an administrator in a school board – approached me and asked if I would inquire whether McGill would be willing to host a meeting with education students from Montreal and Quebec French- and English-language universities. The Dalai Lama was aware that the teaching of ethics and religious culture is part of the program in Quebec education, and he wanted to address the students about the importance of these subjects. I approached the university, and they were very gracious in saying that they were willing to host His Holiness.

Which other universities are participating?

Université de Montréal, UQAM, Concordia, Bishop’s and Laval.

How did you reach out to them?

I approached the deans of Education of the universities and they enthusiastically said they would be willing to organize their Education students to come on Oct. 3. For example, Bishops and Laval are each renting a bus for their students to come to this event.

Which students were invited to attend?

Students who will be teaching this (ethics and religious culture) – all elementary teachers in the public sector generally have this as part of their program – and certain students at the secondary level take this option also to teach. Those are the students we focused on for this meeting. We were able to select them, and they were given an invitation, and they will be meeting His Holiness from 9:30 to 11:30. Matthieu Ricard will be translating into French. The students have prepared questions also for His Holiness.

So McGill is basically the host for these different universities. This is by invitation. There is no fee to the students. I feel teachers are many times undervalued. And as a professor of religious education, I feel religion teachers are undervalued also – petite matière as we say. So to be able to be singled out by His Holiness has been a wonderful tribute to the students and to the subject area.

The Faculty of Education is also hosting an interesting event in Moyse Hall on Oct. 2….

The day before (the Dalai Lama’s visit) we are having a symposium on the importance of religious literacy that is related to this whole issue of trying to understanding the other. (Theologian) Hans Kung said we’ll never have peace in the world until we have peace among religions.