Feb 142019

To:  Persons who spoke out concerning Peter MacKinnon’s appointment to presidency of Dal,

  • There’s more to the background of Dalhousie presidents Peter MacKinnon and before him, Richard Florizone, than told in the news report.
  • Dissent arises when there are conflicting interests,  inimical to the public interest. 
  • If anyone should understand and uphold the tenets of democracy, it is a university president.
  • Don’t let Mackinnon get away with shifting the blame for dissent on campus to students and academics.

The “more to the story” is documented below.

It leads to an issue more troubling than “shifting the blame”.



Peter MacKinnon was president of the U of Saskatchewan for 13 years.   How much responsibility does he, and the University (built around its Agricultural College) have for the situation today?:

Yesterday, Feb 10, 2019,   the Guardian reported on newly-published research:  insects are on their way to extinction.  Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. 

2019-02-10 Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’, The Guardian

 “Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

The poisoning effects of the agriculture (“crop science”) embraced and promulgated by the University of Saskatchewan have been challenged over and over again for decades.   There has been ample science, the die-off of insects and songbirds is long-known,  disease relationships are not doubted,  the corruption of the chemical-biotech corporations is well documented, the story of Percy Schmeiser, a documentary investigation of the experience of Saskatchewan with bioteched crops was used by Germany in its decision whether or not to lift the moratorium on GMO crops, and so on and on.  

The University remains intransigent in the face of it all.  They continue to train students to a ruinous method of producing food.   The University and its leaders bear a significant degree of responsibility for today’s situation – – – the path of extinction.

The following is lengthy;  it is a serious matter.


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Thank-you to those who challenged the appointment of Peter MacKinnon to the presidency of Dalhousie University.  Universities and therefore democracy, are in trouble.

I was an elected member of the University of Saskatchewan Senate for 6 years during the tenure of MacKinnon (president) and Florizone (vp finance).

The Feb 1st, 2019 media coverage of the dissent over MacKinnon’s appointment to the presidency of Dalhousie University tells only part of the story.

Newspaper article,   2019-02-01   Dalhousie’s interim president stirs controversy with book on campus dissent

The Canadian Press,  Feb 01, 2019.

the same article appeared in the Victoria BC Times Colonist, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, the Halifax Chronicle Herald, the PEI Guardian . . .   maybe in all the CP newsrooms?  https://www.thecanadianpress.com/contact/our-newsrooms/

You may get a sense of the depth of the problem with MacKinnon-Florizone from the following.  Unique in universities?  I don’t know.  

(There is brief mention below of the group of “U15”  Canadian Research Universities, http://u15.ca/.   Dalhousie and the U of Sask are members. The U of New Brunswick is not a member.)

CONTEXT:   the category “Knowledge base”  (of the society),  under sub-category “Take back the University”.

– – – – – – –

If anyone should understand and uphold the tenets of democracy, it is a university president, whose background is Dean of Law.  


STUDENT, quoted in the article: 

However, Hayley Zacks, a fourth-year student studying at Dalhousie, says MacKinnon only appears to value freedom of expression and open debate when it supports his own views.

“He doesn’t like dissent when it’s not in his favour, he calls that uncivilized and divisive,” Zacks says.

MacKinnon characterizes student dissent (quoted in the article)  “. . . highly rhetorical and denunciatory responses“.



2011-10-15   My response to Letter from Lawyer, University threatens legal action.


Let me say, regarding your letter and prior to addressing the legal issue you raise: 

the justice system is a well-known tool of intimidation and coercion used by large corporate interests   . . .

I am acquainted with the practice.   It is a disturbing trend, along with the use of the police (RCMP) to protect unregulated corporate interests (Monsanto sending the RCMP to the homes of organic farmers, Encana pipeline incidents bring out the RCMP anti-terrorist squad when unregulated, very poisonous sour gas is causing still-births and miscarriages in women and in livestock.  People are trying to defend the health and lives of their family and environment.  They exhaust legal remedies, are left to their wits and then characterized as terrorists.  . . . 

MacKinnon is good at dissension (in this case “University threatens legal action”), perhaps it is his legal training.  I think of all the court cases on the spreadsheet (above link).   Cost the university millions and millions of dollars.  Settlement with (one professor) alone was $1 million.  Doesn’t include the cost of the (expensive) lawyers to do the negotiations.  Settlements with gag orders.  Not unlike what SNC Lavalin has been lobbying for?  – – keep information out of the public domain?

– – – –  – – –

REAGAN SEIDLER, quoted in the article: 

a former student at the U of S, and currently a law student at Dalhousie.  He describes Peter MacKinnon as   “arguably the most well-respected university leader in the country.” And in other glowing terms.

Before going on to “There is more . . .”  than is addressed in the CP article, I was curious about MacKinnon’s cheerleader.  

A quick background search on Seidler:

The article says:  A former student president at one of the University of Saskatchewan’s colleges during MacKinnon’s tenure . . .  

It’s poor journalism that is not specific.   Why is it not specific?  What was Seidler president of?  (A former student president at one of the University of Saskatchewan’s colleges.)  Please correct me if I’m wrong:  He was a student in the U of S Economics Dept.  Was Seidler the student president of the “Economics Students’ Society”?    https://artsandscience.usask.ca/economics/people/studentsociety.php? 

Some of the “student presidents” are not presidents of much.  (I remember the Econ Student Society.  I contacted them regarding their lessons in faulty and archaic economic indicators.)  Anyhow, the title “President” looks good on a resume.  And some ingratiate themselves in the university structure.  Not saying this is Seidler’s case.  A quick look at the current EcSS executive: EcSS Website.  Nothing is current.  The last Executive listed is for 2011-2012,  7 years ago.    As I say, What was Seidler president of?  And why was it not reported?

(The full text of what Seidler said, as quoted in the CP article,  is at bottom.)


There was an incident:  in the face of student protesters,  president MacKinnon, U of S,  called in fully-equipped Police.  Senate Meetings start at 9:00 AM on a Saturday morning.  I arrived to find doorways and hallways inside the University, outside the Senate meeting room, adorned with this intimidating and baffling array of policemen at the ready.  The students outside were not a threat.  Their concerns should have been aired and addressed by the Administration?  Maybe I got things wrong – – the Police were in attendance to control / intimidate the members of Senate?



The squelching of dissent on university campuses takes me back to the Viet Nam War years.  Students were protesting the War in large numbers, on many different campuses, including in Canada.  EVERYONE should have been protesting that war, all 20 years’ worth. 

Kent State University in Ohio, May 4, 1970 – – – the National Guard was called in to quell demonstrations that were turning violent.  In the end, the Guard shot four students dead.  Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young memorialized the shooting, “Four dead in Ohio”.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IohvCEdKan0  

MacKinnon would know that history; he is of that age.   We are reminded, and younger people are introduced to the story through the 2017 movie with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.  (Wikipedia)

The Post is a 2017 American historical political thriller film[7][8] directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. It stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post, . . .  . Set in 1971, The Post depicts the true story of attempts by journalists at The Washington Post to publish the Pentagon Papers, classified documents regarding the 20-year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War.




But MacKinnon says he’s concerned that issues of high sensitivity are increasingly met with “ritualistic denunciation” on campuses, rather than respectful discussion. 

I don’t know the answer to the “why” of MacKinnon, but the Viet Nam War was an issue of “high sensitivity”.  And voices that are not heard, after years of speaking up, become ritualistic denunciation”.  Can you really expect “novel” or “creative” after years of protesting? . . .  whether denouncing a war, or denouncing the poisoning of life forms, to the point of mass extinctions?


The killings of the students in 1970 focused public attention, lent resolve and paved the way for Daniel Ellsberg (whistle-blower) in 1971, to leak the Pentagon PapersStudent protesters paid a big price.  Without the attention directed by protesters, Ellsberg could/would have landed in prison for the rest of his days. It was his good luck that Nixon over-stepped the bounds of the Law and was found out;  Citing gross governmental misconduct and illegal evidence gathering, the judge dismissed all charges against Ellsberg and Russo on May 11, 1973.  It had been nip and tuck, with Ellsberg prepared and expecting to go to jail.  The War was finally brought to an end in 1975.  The atrocities, agent orange (taking us back to the ag-chem corporations), massacres, the propaganda fed to its citizens . . . student protest paid a pivotal role in bringing an end, so far as there is an end – – people in Viet Nam, Cambodia, the U.S., not to mention the environment, continue to carry the deep scarring 45 years later. 

Democracy is fragile.   Re Presidents of Dal.

Dissent arises when there are conflicting interests.

Think of South America.   There is dissension when a small group of people want to control and run the show for their own personal and financial benefit.  Typically there are “resources” coveted by transnational corporations, in competing world powers.  They enrich collaborators in the country that has the resources.  Local people come to understand that if they want to assert their interest, “the public interest”, they have to “Dissent”.

Recently-resigned President of Dalhousie, Richard Florizone, played a role in the selection of MacKinnon as his successor.

MacKinnon had a very long tenure at the U of S, between being Dean of the Law School and then President for more terms than the limits set out in the University Act.   There is a cozy relationship between the Government and the University (Govt funding to the U that is earmarked for specific use, compromising the independence of the U)  – –   exceptions were made to accommodate the extensions of MacKinnon’s tenure.

Conflicts-of-interest were vociferously defended by MacKinnon while he was president (documented in my reply to the University when they threatened to sue me).

LETITIA MEYNELL, associate professor of philosophy at Dalhousie, in the CP article:

“It’s a kind of nostalgia for a time when white men were massively privileged and had control of the university debate,” she says. “He’s (MacKinnon’s) basically saying Make Campuses Great Again.”

The TIME WARP, a problem for “the once-venerable” today, described by Daniel Ellsberg:

Ellsberg remains resolute about his decision to leak the documents. “The Pentagon Papers definitely contributed to a delegitimation of the war, an impatience with its continuation, and a sense that it was wrong,” he told the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2016. “They made people understand that presidents lie all the time, not just occasionally, but all the time. Not everything they say is a lie, but anything they say could be a lie.”    (From  https://timeline.com/pentagon-papers-famous-leak-prison-9772ec594f73)

MacKinnon is not the President of the U.S., not Richard Nixon.  The point is the time warp:  just because the president of the University makes a proclamation does not mean it is true, or accepted, or that people will bow in deference.  Times change.





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There is also more to be learned about Richard Florizone, the departed president of Dalhousie.  Florizone was VP Finance at the U of S under MacKinnon, as mentioned.   The two are presidents for the corporatocracy, three of whose members (and more) are resident at the U of S:

–          Lockheed Martin Corp (the Pentagon, the NSA),

–          the uranium-nuclear industry, and

–          the gmo-chemical corporations.  


Viewing suitability to govern a University, using first the GMO-CHEMICAL example:

2019-02-10 Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’, The Guardian

Plummeting insect numbers . . .  attributable in significant part to the demagoguery of the university (the U of S is not alone).

Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

Community and student protesters (disclosure: I was one of them) were on the U of S campus in 2013  to draw attention to the problem of the poisoning done by Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, and other of the chem-biotech corporations that have been in, and heavily influence the College of Agriculture and the Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy at the U of S.  There was more than one March Against Monsanto at the U of S.

The March was a culmination of world-wide and long-standing protests.  A version of the Viet Nam War protests, with plentiful documentary films, moved onto the internet and out into the streets, in North America, Africa, India, South and Central America, Mexico, Europe, New Zealand, Australia . . .  As the Viet Nam war protesters discovered, the powers-that-be propagandize, stonewall, and lie. 

You may know about Monsanto and its demise; the international movement against it; the precipitous decline in Bayer’s share price after it purchased Monsanto’s assets (Roundup, etc.); the court case in California that found Monsanto guilty, the 8,000 pending lawsuits . . .  It strikes me that the students and other protesters at the U of S were on the right side of history, again.  MacKinnon and Florizone would have been wise to start listening and to change, to take care of the public interest, from the beginning of MacKinnon’s tenure.  

2018-08-25  Letter to the Minister Responsible for Neonic chemicals. Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, University of Saskatchewan.

Documentation was sent to the Minister Responsible for the “neonic” chemicals (death of bees).   Simultaneously, there was court action against the University:

(2018-08-18) SIGNIFICANCE EXPLAINED: U of Saskatchewan taken to Court, Refuses to disclose Right to Know symposium proceedings.

I hope you will find the  posting  brief and to-the-point – – what’s behind the lawsuit.  It explains the difficulty getting through the corruption to the actual banning of the neonic chemicals.

The University is in deep – – 

CBC, Radio Canada out of Montreal will be launching the results of months of investigation into the role of Monsanto at Canadian universities.  With thanks to the student newspaper at the U of S:

  2019-01-24 Concerns on transparency and sustainability raised at University Council. From student newspaper, The Sheaf. University of Sask.

“ . .  his concern of redacting transcripts for freedom in information requests. The university has acted in non-compliance with the privacy commissioner’s informal ruling. The information in question is an audio recording of a by-invitation-only symposium held at the University of Saskatchewan in 2015. 

Findlay asked for more information to be released. He says that the recording of the symposium might be relevant to an upcoming investigation into the alleged interference of agricultural giant Monsanto in university affairs.

“Members of council may appear [to be] willing parties to a policy that masks the culture of secrecy within appeals to confidentiality,” Findlay said. “Another incentive for council to inform themselves about this matter comes in the form of an impending public disclosure by the CBC Radio Canada investigative team on the influence wielded by Monsanto on Canadian university campuses — and guess who’ll be starring in that piece.”

UPDATE, MAy 18:   Something happened at the CBC.  The programming scarcely got beyond Radio Canada (French CBC)  as far as I can tell.)

MacKinnon is no longer President, but in his 13 years as President, the role of the chem-biotech corporations at the University was shielded, thinly-disguised, through for example, a newly-established Global Institute for Food Security, Feb 2011. 

CropLife Canada is the lobbying machine for the chem-biotech companies, with a history of corrupting.  It is the Canadian branch of CropLife International:   Croplife Canada, President, CEO. Lorne Hepworth on the Board of Directors, University of Saskatchewan “Global Institute for Food Security” (Agriculture). & Privatization of public assets.


MacKinnon was president from 1999 to 2012.  Things only get worse – – conflicts-of-interest were routinely defended by the University.  The University papered over disease relationships;  the California court found in favour of the disease plaintiff.  Monsanto has been a fixture at the University, in what once was a preeminent College of Agriculture.  Other of the chem-biotech corporations moved in, too.

Where does MacKinnon’s legacy, responsibility start and end?  Thirteen years, haughtiness to the point that dissenting voices are held in disdain?  Only denunciation.  The vilified have the look of becoming the vindicated, at huge cost to the University. 

Dissension happens in conflict-of-interest situations, when the leadership at the University kowtows in service to, in this one example, the chemical-biotech industry that is taking the Planet to ruination (“Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’.)   We know about the “neonics” and the pollinators.  . . . a long list, all the “yesterday’s news” that hubris denied,  is coming home to roost.  

Our society cannot afford the high costs of universities that do not strive to find the truth of matters.  MacKinnon and Florizone are no longer at the University of Saskatchewan;  it is troubling that Dalhousie chose Peter MacKinnon to lead the students, and the University



A tag-team for Lockheed Martin and the nuclear industry:  well before Lockheed Martin surfaced at the U of S, there were protests at Dalhousie over a $2 million dollar grant by Lockheed Martin.  Conditions:  the money was earmarked for the Math Dept and for research in support of military.  (Hfx has the largest concentration of military in Canada.)    Then

Lockheed Martin came into the U of S under MacKinnon’s presidency.   What the Administration SAID Lockheed was doing at the U, was in direct conflict with the document that Lockheed Martin used to recruit professors to work with.   

Lockheed Martin’s Collaboration Topics (CT’s), as presented to the U of S in April 2012 are posted at Lockheed Martin Visit to Your Institution.    Excerpts:

to turn the sensed environment into information about the target (e.g., target recognition, speed, intent, etc. via Ladar, Radar, EO, and acoustic methods) 

Hardware, software, and architectures to enable uninhabited intelligent deployments of ground, sea, air or space capabilities (These are UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones for military use)


Architectures for detectors and associated hardware and software for personnel identification in a broad range of applications (e.g., authentication, surveillance, tracking)

to include methods to facilitate timely response (e.g., explosive vapor, biological agents)  more


At two meetings of Senate, Ernie Barber (then Acting Dean of Engineering) defended Lockheed Martin’s role at the University as one of “renewable technologies”.   Yes – Lockheed Martin is heavily dependent upon fossil fuels; supply lines are often targeted during invasions, renewable technologies are attractive – –  you have to spin Lockheed’s role someway.

I encourage Board Members to read the CT’s as presented by Lockheed Martin itself.   How you get to  “renewable technologies” is hard to fathom.

Lockheed Martin probably continues to be a funder of Dalhousie.  Florizone became President of Dalhousie, and MacKinnon succeeded him.  Was there any vetting of MacKinnon?  A selections committee or process?  

Will MacKinnon continue after the 6-month “interim” in the role of President of Dal?  With or without vetting?

You are dealing with two men, under whose leadership Lockheed Martin came to the U of S.  One after the other the two men went to Dalhousie, where Lockheed Martin is also.   I don’t know your thoughts,  but you might wish to be aware of:

2015-03-17, Updated 2017-12 The Minerva Initiative   

I will not take the time and space to detail progressions from University to U15 to Minerva, which is simultaneously a progression of the roll of the military into some of the U15 educational institutions.

Back to the corporatocracy at the U of S:  UDP (Uranium/Nuclear Development Partnership)  – – nuclear reactors for tar sands expansion,  a nuclear centre of excellence at the University.  Florizone the Chair of the UDP consultations.  Florizone’s manipulative work for the “Partnership”, while Vice-President of the U of S,  and as the Chair of the UDP, lacked integrity.  Abuse of his position of trust as a Vice-President of the University.  A reactor and deep geological repository  were rejected by the people of the Province, in spite of Florizone.  Citizens were told of 4 components of the Plan for the UDP during the “consultation” process.  They were not told the educational component was already established – – had been for a year:  the nuclear centre of excellence at the University.  The president vice would have known that.

Also regarding MacKinnon and Florizone:   2013-01-22  Big payouts to university admins aren’t right, Maclean’s Magazine


Don’t let Mackinnon get away with shifting the blame to students and academics.  And share information:  Canadians cannot afford the kind of leadership provided by Peter MacKinnon, as documented in the preceding.

PRESCIENT:  Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the Earth.  (Helen Caldicott)

There is no doubt:  students at Dalhousie are right to be dissenting and denouncing and demonstrating.

Everyone should be up-in-arms – –   Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’   in large part thanks to the partnership between the University and the ag-chem-biotech corporations.

Best wishes,

Sandra Finley

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Reagan Seidler, a second year student at Dal’s Schulich School of Law, says MacKinnon is “arguably the most well-respected university leader in the country.”

A former student president at one of the University of Saskatchewan’s colleges during MacKinnon’s tenure, he says it’s difficult to witness his legacy reduced to one passage in his book.

“One reason Peter was so celebrated in Saskatoon is for his leadership on behalf of racialized students, particularly Indigenous students. He has a real track record the protesters surely know nothing about.”

Seidler added: “We’ve asked him to put off retirement for a temporary job across the country at a school in constant turmoil. He’s here because he cares.”





  3 Responses to “2019-02-13 (r. 02-16) Dalhousie University and interim President. Dissent arises when there are conflicting interests.”

  1. I’m terrified. I think I’m paralized. I really don’t know what to do. Warm regards, Jan

    • We’ve done amazing things before, Jan. And we can do them again. First thing is to remember how you un-terrify yourself! Get outside for a bit, in the wild, a wooded area, or by the river, or in a park. The beauty of nature will re-fortify you. You’ll come back inside with a smile on your face, and some joy in your heart.

      THEN you can work out what you want to do. ONE thing. Meet a friend for coffee. Tell them that you’re afraid, and doing an action (going for coffee) helps you get back to centre and calm. Do they mind if you bounce some ideas off them?

      If you’re still living in Saskatoon, you could try something around: the AgBio Dean is Mary Buhr. She is just a regular person. (306 966-4050; mary.buhr@usask.ca).

      Maybe you could – – – ? (ask her if she’s seen the Guardian newspaper article about plummeting numbers of insects? . . .)

      • Jan – – you will feel stronger after you’ve asked Mary Buhr the question.
        Then have coffee with your friend, again. Tell what you did and what happened. In fact, you could use this space to tell all of us. Everyone will be interested – – it will help them figure out what they want to do.

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