Publisher’s Statement Regarding the McCool Case:
In the spring of 2020, the McGill Daily published two articles and a statement about an anonymous complaint levied against a McGill University student and the then-recently-elected VP Internal of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), Declan McCool.
The articles related to, and commented on, the following situation: Shortly after the SSMU elections were completed in 2020, the McGill Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) received an anonymous complaint of sexual violence. The complaint identified McCool as the perpetrator. Under the Involvement Restriction Policy (IRP) – a then-newly-implemented process established to investigate and act on complaints of any inappropriate conduct, such as discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence – a hearing of the complaint was conducted.
An anonymous tip was submitted to the Daily, informing it that McCool had been found responsible and sanctioned under the IRP. The information was accompanied by a letter from the complainant, who did not disclose their name. The Daily, in accordance with its unwavering commitment to offer a voice and safe space for survivors, and finding the issue as accordant with public interest, published the information and the letter. The publication was followed by another published letter from the complainant, which, among other iterations, called on McCool to step down from his SSMU position.
The information appeared, at that time, to be factual. It was supported by the outcome of the hearing in question and accepted by the Daily without deeper investigation.
New facts have since come to light with respect to the case that warrant an update. Had these facts been known or foreseen at the time of first publication, they would have materially impacted the Daily’s decision to run the story or, at the least, affected its tone and content.
For one, the IRP hearing did not permit McCool to know what he was accused of or by whom. His sole participation in the process centered on questions put to him regarding his understanding of consent by a committee of students. No questions about the specific allegations were put to him and the EUS committee charged with implementing the IRP barred McCool from participating in multi-day events involving alcohol for one year.
McCool appealed the decision of the EUS IRP Committee. The EUS mandated a seven-week independent inquiry by Latitude MNGMT, a law firm specialized in legal investigations. Latitude’s partner Maître Anaïs Lacroix spearheaded the investigation, which concluded in August 2020, with the reversal of the original IRP decision. It found that:
- The EUS did not have jurisdiction to investigate and decide on the matter as the alleged incidents do not fall within the scope of the All-Faculty or EUS Policy as they were currently drafted, and because the original investigation prevented Mr. McCool from bringing a full defence.
- Although there is no indication that the EUS Committee lacked impartiality or good faith and its members applied the IRP to the best of their knowledge, the investigation infringed on McCool’s right to be heard and to present a full defence by keeping pertinent and necessary information from him and by denying him the opportunity to make a full answer.
- Based on the evidentiary and testimonial evidence, it is more likely than not that McCool did not commit sexual violence against the complainant nor engage in improper conduct as per the IRP.
Specific to the third finding, the full investigation report, expanded that a) the complainant had the minimum capacity required to give continuous consent; b) the complainant and McCool were most likely equally intoxicated, decided to engage in sexual activities, and played similarly active roles in these activities; and c) the complainant communicated her consent affirmatively and continuously to Mr. McCool through her actions.
The Investigation Committee’s decision was set aside and the involvement restriction it placed on Mr. McCool was lifted. The Daily did not report the findings of the independent investigation. Lacroix’s full 27-page decision, including detailed and fulsome analysis of testimony and evidence, was not released to McCool or the public. The comprehensive report and exhibits were only released two years later, after McCool obtained a Superior Court order unsealing the material, with witnesses’ names redacted.
The exhibits and full investigation report contained more facts previously unknown, shedding new light on the complaint.
The full Lacroix investigation report and its supporting exhibits are now public. McCool deserved fairness and was denied it. He deserved due process, a voice, and complete information so as to be able to make a full and complete defence. DPS regrets any distress this situation may have caused.
The Daily is committed to providing honest coverage of news events and fair commentary and, albeit a stranger to the proceedings which impacted McCool, recognises its role in the unraveling of his story. Public opinion is a powerful court, and as members of the media, we strive to adhere to principles of fairness and transparency—the staples of impartiality. The Daily is sensitive to the harms experienced by McCool. This is not a story due for repetition.
–Daily Publications Society