Exploring issues surrounding The Royal Victoria Hospital site development in a McGill Law course

For the first time, Professors Kirsten Anker, Yaëll Emerich and Tina Piper from the Faculty of Law teamed up to teach the “Property” course (LAWG 220 D1 and D2), a new year-long “integrated course teaching civil, common and Indigenous property law.”[1] Their students’ final assignment was to create a poster related to the development of the Royal Victoria Hospital site. Working in teams, the students had to “explore property issues related to the development of the former site of the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH).”[2] Specific objectives for students were to:

  • “Develop collaboration skills by working together on a project
  • Apply [their] knowledge of property law to an actual situation in the local environment
  • Translate legal knowledge to individuals in a public forum.”[3]

As part of the assignment, students displayed their posters in the Atrium of New Chancellor Day Hall. I walked around and asked several students if they could tell me briefly what they had learned from this assignment:

  • Sara Gold felt that the assignment allowed her to apply property law concepts to a concrete example, and look at how these laws could affect the city and its inhabitants. This project felt personal to Sara, a native Montrealer with family working in the medical field.
  • While considering the ecoterritory of the RVH site in relation to aboriginal laws, Anisha Samat realized that the First Nations’ approach to the environment is much more fluid; the interior and the exterior are not seen as separate entities but rather as complementary.
  • Eric Abrams realized that the law has a very westernized definition of “value” in regards to property, taking into account only economic aspects of the site and neglecting added value to society.
  • Alix Genier and her group looked more closely at heritage laws, and discovered these include only aesthetic aspects of the property and neglect to take into account the site’s story and former function. They researched how the RVH site could embrace its history and heritage, and be inclusive of the various minorities that had a part in its story.

I also spoke with Professor Piper about the teaching experience and the outcomes of the course. She said that although students sometimes struggled with the collaborative aspect, overall she was pleased with their work and impressed that students found new, original documents about the site.

 What are some historical facts that you would like to share about the RVH site?

[1] Excerpt from the course syllabus, provided by Prof. Tina Piper

[2] Excerpt from the “RVH Assignment Instructions” distributed to students; provided by Prof. Tina Piper.

[3] Excerpt from the “RVH Assignment Instructions” distributed to students; provided by Prof. Tina Piper.

Featured image by Jeangagnon [CC BY-SA 3.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

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