David Sommers Rovins, an independent candidate running in the riding of Westmount–Ville-Marie in the upcoming federal election, butted heads with the McGill administration this week over the right to campaign on campus.
McGill Security removed Rovins twice in the last two weeks for trying to speak to students during classes in the MacIntyre Medical Building. Rovins also tried to access student class schedules that, according to McGill receptionist Susanne Gomes, are confidential.
Associate Vice-Principal Jim Nicell said the University was justified in its actions. He claimed Rovins was disruptive and violated protocol by entering campus without permission or notifying administration. McGill requires candidates show proof of registration and details of their intentions – steps Nicell claims Rovins skipped before campaigning on campus.
“All we’re asking is for people to follow our process,” said Nicell.
Rovins, however, argues he had the legal right to campaign on campus.
“I proved to them I was a candidate, showed them the law allowing me access to public places, and showed them further proof of identity,” Rovins wrote in an email to The Daily. “They still escorted me off campus telling me not to return.”
The law gets tricky when it comes to campaigning in public space: section 81.1 of the Canada Elections Act states that while candidates are allowed to campaign in all places “open without charge to the public,” there is an exception when “campaigning in or on it would be incompatible with the function and purpose of the place or inconsistent with public safety.”
Nicell said that security was responding to several independent complaints they had received about Rovins.
Rovins encountered more confrontation even after he exited the campus gates. After issuing a complaint to Elections Canada after his first removal, the police barred him from making a second complaint at Elections Canada’s riding office in the Scotia Tower, Rovins said.
“Two police men suddenly came in, refused to let me get on the elevator, and blocked me from going up to Elections Canada,” he said.