News | SSMU VP External resigns amid allegations of sexual violence

Community Disclosure Network releases statement condemning David Aird’s “history of sexualized and gendered violence”

On February 22, David Aird resigned as VP External of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), SSMU President Ben Ger told The Daily. On the evening of February 21, the Community Disclosure Network (CDN), “a group of survivors and allies who have united to take action against David Aird,” published a statement online alleging that Aird had sexually assaulted various McGill students.

The statement condemned “the history of sexualized and gendered violence committed by Aird both before and during his time as VP External,” and asserted that Aird’s resignation was the direct result of the group’s demands for him to step down from his position.

On February 9, the CDN circulated an anonymous online form to collect disclosures regarding Aird’s behaviour and alleged history of sexual violence. According to CDN’s statement, multiple people disclosed through the form, and “the disclosures were to be presented to the SSMU Board of Directors as part of an established process demanding Aird’s resignation.”

On the evening of February 21, the Community Disclosure Network (CDN), “a group of survivors and allies who have united to take action against David Aird,” published a statement online alleging that Aird had sexually assaulted various McGill students.

Melody*, member of CDN and U3 Arts student told The Daily that Aird found out about the online form and contacted CDN with an offer to resign. Aird’s offer to resign came with three conditions, said Melody: “that he would get a week to resign, […] that he could write a letter of apology to all the people that [disclosed or submitted complaints], and that he would leave quietly. Of course, for safety reasons, we do not want him to resign without having to disclose the real reasons behind his resignation. The McGill University community deserves to know.”

Disclosures of alleged sexual assault

The Daily has obtained statements that were submitted through the online form, both of which indicated that the writers were comfortable with their comments being quoted publicly.

Nina Hermes is a floor fellow and U3 social work student, who first spoke with Aird on Tinder in early 2016. She wrote that “David has made me feel extremely uncomfortable many times since I first met him, has asked me out repeatedly to the point where it borders on harassment, and I do not feel comfortable at all having him in a major leadership position at the University.”

The statement condemned “the history of sexualized and gendered violence committed by Aird both before and during his time as VP External,” and asserted that Aird’s resignation was the direct result of the group’s demands for him to step down from his position.

“A few months later I saw a public status posted by a friend of mine [wherein] multiple women shared that they’ve also experienced similar things from David. That was when I realized that his pattern of repeatedly asking women out on dates to the point where it is borderline harassment was not a singular incident with me, but a much deeper pattern that I find deeply concerning.”

The second disclosure The Daily obtained alleged a case of sexual assault wherein Aird had penetrative sex with the writer of the complaint without their consent, despite them repeatedly telling Aird that they didn’t want to have penetrative sex. The writer connected with Aird on Facebook via a mutual friend, and first went on a date with him on June 12, 2016.

The Daily has obtained statements that were submitted through the online form, both of which indicated that the writers were comfortable with their comments being quoted publicly.

After the author invited Aird to their apartment and stressed that they did not want to have penetrative sex, “David asked me if he could tie me to the bed. I was hesitant and resisted for a while, but eventually allowed him to tie only my arms to the bed frame. We continued to kiss and I continued to stress that I was not planning on having (penetrative) sex with him. He said that was fine. After a few minutes he asked if he could take off my underwear because he wanted to go down on me. Once again I was hesitant, but he started to beg so I eventually gave in. He then began to say he wanted to have (penetrative) sex, to which I firmly said no. He kept on bringing it up and I kept saying no. We went back and forth on it for a while; he was getting impatient and whiny and I was becoming uncomfortable because he was on top of me and my arms were tied up above my head. David then decided to disregard what I was saying to him because he proceeded [to] put his penis inside me. Not only was this done without my consent, but it was also done without a condom which is not something I would ever agree to. My reaction was something along the lines of ‘Woah, what the fuck are you doing?!’ and so he did stop. I told him to get off of me and untie me immediately, which he did, reluctantly.”

“Not only was this done without my consent, but it was also done without a condom which is not something I would ever agree to.”

On July 2, 2016, the author sent Aird a Facebook message explaining to him that “he pushed me when I was clearly hesitant, and it made me very uncomfortable. I told him that, in combination with his aggression, some of the language he used during our sexual encounter was not okay. For example, phrases like ‘you’re going to like it,’ ‘you’ll get used to it,’ or calling me derogatory names.” Aird responded, saying that “I’m a different person when I’m horny, which is something I hate but that’s just how it is. Doesn’t mean I stop caring about consent, but yes, it does mean that I’ll try to push through hesitancy and ‘advance my own interests.’ Regardless, fundamentally, I care very much about consent and I’d never fuck around with unambiguous answers.”

“The quotes I have inserted are directly from my Facebook conversations with David, and I did my best to contextualize them properly,” the author writes. “Essentially, David Aird believes that, while he deeply cares about consent, he cannot actually control himself in sexual situations and that he loses his principles in that moment. He believes that it is the other person’s responsibility to tell him to stop, using only ‘unambiguous answers,’ because his intention is to ‘push through hesitancy.’”

“I was sexually assaulted by [Aird] the night of November 1st, 2016,” Lilith*, a McGill student and member of CDN, told The Daily in an email. “[Aird] knows that coercion is not consent, and that actively refusing to listen to ‘no’ is sexual assault. [His] actions were violent.”

According to Lilith, after she went over to Aird’s house and consented to cuddle with him, he then proceeded to grope, penetrate, and spank her without her consent, or in situations of coerced consent.

“[Aird] knows that coercion is not consent, and that actively refusing to listen to ‘no’ is sexual assault. [His] actions were violent.”

Melody* told The Daily that she had also felt pressured into agreeing to sexual acts with Aird. “He asked if he could take off my shirt, and at first I said ‘no’ but he asked two or three times, and eventually I said ‘yeah.’ […] I could tell that my body was saying no, but he wouldn’t listen to that – he wouldn’t even listen to ‘no’ – he would only listen to ‘yes’ or even ‘I don’t know,’ which to him meant ‘convince me,’” she recounted.

“He’d also talk about how important consent was, and so I thought, ‘this man is a feminist.’ So I guess he knew how to [practice consent], but, more than that, he knew his way around it,” she continued.

A history of resignations and removals

According to the CDN statement, “two student societies that Aird was involved in — McGill Against Austerity and NDP McGill — received complaints of sexual violence in October and December of 2016, respectively.” Both societies were unable to take action against Aird, since those affected by his actions wished to remain anonymous.

According to the CDN statement, “two student societies that Aird was involved in — McGill Against Austerity and NDP McGill — received complaints of sexual violence in October and December of 2016, respectively.”

Angèle Pineau-Lemieux, the VP Communications of the Jeunes néodémocrates du Québec (JNDQ) – the youth wing of the New Democratic Party – told The Daily that Aird was elected VP Politics of the JNDQ in late October, 2016. Within the days following, three to four complaints were brought to the JNDQ executive by McGill students who were NDP members, and who were uncomfortable with Aird being in a position of power, said Pineau-Lemieux. The JNDQ brought the latter to the attention of the Quebec NDP, at which point Aird chose to resign rather than have the case presented to the NDP Administration Council.

“The revelations regarding David’s behavior came to our attention on October 30, 2016,” Malaya Powers, co-president of NDP McGill, told The Daily. “At that point we were contacted by the JNDQ with formal requests that David be removed from all online communication forms associated with NDP McGill. So listservs, Facebook groups, Facebook pages – anything that was affiliated with the NDP club on campus.” The JNDQ was representing the wishes of a person who had been sexually assaulted, Powers added.

“At that point we were contacted by the JNDQ with formal requests that David be removed from all online communication forms associated with NDP McGill.”

A member of McGill Against Austerity, who wished to remain anonymous, also confirmed that Aird had been removed from the group earlier this semester “for the same reason CDN called for his resignation: gendered and sexualized violence.”

Regarding Aird’s resignation from the position of VP External, “the position will stay empty until someone is elected for the incoming year,” Ger told The Daily. “We’re discussing potentials of reaching out to previous VP Externals to have them come in on a contract or something like that.”

Calls for a SSMU sexual assault policy

According to the CDN statement, several students brought Aird’s behaviour to the attention of SSMU Executive, which Ger confirmed in an interview with The Daily. “The only action undertaken by SSMU in response to these students’ complaints was to establish weekly ‘check-ins’ between Aird and the President of SSMU,” the statement says.

Ger confirmed that he had been meeting with Aird weekly to “actively review specific events that had happened throughout the week” which included reviewing equity and consent training materials. “So, if I was in a meeting with him, or we were ever around the office together and something that could be deemed ‘inappropriate’ happened […] making sure he understood changes in language that needed to happen,” explained Ger.

A member of McGill Against Austerity, who wished to remain anonymous, also confirmed that Aird had been removed from the group earlier this semester “for the same reason CDN called for his resignation: gendered and sexualized violence.”

In her statement submitted through the online form, Hermes criticized the “weekly check-ins,” saying that “[Ger’s] response to the problem included having a ‘talk’ with David. Someone who is in a position of power who has a history of harassing women is very rarely going to change after a ‘talk,’ and that proved to be the case with David.”

While McGill’s sexual violence policy applies to all McGill students, faculty, and staff, SSMU does not have a clear outline of procedures for receiving or responding to disclosures. “I don’t believe that [weekly check-ins] alone were adequate,” said Ger. “There was definitely a desire to do more.”

In her statement submitted through the online form, Hermes criticized the “weekly check-ins,” saying that “[Ger’s] response to the problem included having a ‘talk’ with David.

Within SSMU, “a lack of clear, binding policy has lead to multiple instances of disclosures being mishandled,” says the CDN statement. As a result, the CDN demands that SSMU issue a statement condemning Aird’s actions as well as issue public apologies to survivors and the community for the lack of action on the part of some members of the SSMU executive who failed to “immediately [take] steps towards pro-survivor disciplinary action” upon being approached with disclosures. CDN also demands that SSMU develop “a concrete stand-alone sexual assault policy” and “easily accessible complaint procedures and response protocols related to sexual assault,” and that all elected representatives undergo training on how to respond to disclosures of sexual assault.

At the time of publication, SSMU executives had yet to release a statement regarding Aird’s resignation.

*names have been changed

The Daily has not yet been able to verify the allegations of sexual assault.

The CDN is organizing a support group open to those who may have experienced any degree of sexualized or gendered violence by Aird; email community.disclosure.network@gmail.com. The CDN statement also includes a list of Montreal-based resources for those who have experienced sexual assault, including crisis centres, active listening services, self-care material, and 24-hour support services.


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