by Barbara Black
The reason may have had something to do with the recipients of honorary doctorates. One was a famous composer, Henryk Górecki, while the other, who was the featured speaker, was one of Canada's most powerful politicians.
Finance minister Paul Martin rose to the occasion with a speech calling for people, through their governments, to reclaim their power over the world's banks.
Globalization can be a powerful tool for good, Martin said, but it can also "leave people feeling hostage to forces over which they have no control. Even worse, their confidence in the future is shaken by the suspicion that their governments have no more ability to shape these forces than they themselves do."
The answer, he suggested, is to strengthen controls over the abuse-ridden banking systems of some other countries. He referred to a six-point plan to address the Asian financial crisis that was unveiled by the Liberals in September.
"It is not good enough to have a system of international finance that works for financiers," he said. "We must have a system that works for people."
Martin also called for renewed increased investment in the skills and education of young Canadians. "We cannot be satisfied to simply lower our borders. We must also raise our standards."
Rector Frederick Lowy, in a speech of thanks, made a point of mentioning the financial difficulties universities have endured in recent years, although he allowed that the last two federal budgets have begun to redress the cuts of previous federal and provincial governments.
The order of convocation was reversed at the last moment so that graduates would be sure to get their degrees even if Martin's speech was disrupted. A small group protesting cuts to education and lack of financial support for students gathered outside Place-des-Arts, but didn't affect the ceremonies inside or the lunch held afterwards for Górecki, Martin and their guests at the Musée d'art contemporain.