Charles Bronfman has given $5M to McGill University for public conversations about the future of Canada

Charles Bronfman was at McGill University to announce a $5-million donation reflecting his concern for Canada’s future. (McGill University photo)

At 91, Charles Bronfman is preoccupied with Canada’s future, specifically, whether it is playing as influential a role as it could on the world stage.

“I have had the privilege to live in the United States and travel in Europe and Israel and the Far East, and we have something very precious here… Canada is a society that is quite wonderful. But do we realize it? Canada should be a leader among medium-sized countries in the world,” said Bronfman at the announcement of the $5-million he has donated to McGill University to establish an annual public event where crucial issues facing the country will be discussed.

His wish is that Canada “conquer other worlds but in a Canadian way.”

McGill hopes the endowment will attract high-profile speakers to Conversations, sponsored by Charles Bronfman as the series to be launched next year is known.

News of Bronfman’s gift to his alma mater came during a two-day conference of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC), which will administer the endowment. Bronfman was co-founder in 1994 of MISC, which today is the centre for Canadian, Quebec and Indigenous studies at the university and organizer of a number of events geared to the public at large.  

Montreal-born Bronfman, whose principal residence has been New York for more than 30 years, shared his vision of Canada in conversation with Lisa Shapiro, the new dean of the McGill Faculty of Arts.

“As Canada keeps growing, I just hope Canadian society stays essentially as it now—not go the way of America or Europe—but remain the type of society it is.”

The theme of the conference, the first MISC has held since 2019 due to the pandemic, was Comparing Immigration Policies: Canada & the World.

Bronfman commented that Canada’s immigration policy today is also “quite wonderful” and he hopes the population continues to grow “exponentially” as it was since after the Second World War, and that immigrants are successfully “absorbed.”

MISC director Daniel Béland said Conversations is foreseen as a “flagship” event that reaches beyond academia that will attract engaged citizens and the attention of policy makers and the media in an exploration of the challenges facing Canada as a global player.