On Monday, November 14 – four days after the events of November 10 – Principal Heather Munroe-Blum sat down for an interview with reporters from The Daily, the McGill Tribune, and Le Délit. While the conversation was intended to broach a variety of subjects, November 10 dominated the interview. When asked for a response to a recent petition calling for her resignation, Munroe-Blum stated she was not aware of it, though she was asked the same question in an interview two hours earlier on CBC Daybreak. Read the full interview here.
The McGill Daily: Why was Dean of Law Daniel Jutras chosen to do the investigation, and why was it decided to be an internal investigation?
Heather Munroe-Blum: My interest as principal is that we learn from what happened to do the best that we can to not have that happen again… In that regard, I wanted someone who has deep loyalty and concern for the University and the well-being of everyone in it, and yet who is known for impartiality, independence. He is a highly distinguished, member-trained lawyer, [who] has worked at the Supreme Court. He is a guy who’s beyond reproach in his character. In a university, we do a lot of things that depend on internal judgments, you know, the whole peer-review system is us, judging ourselves as a community. We have a very self-governed approach to our operations, and so choosing someone of the highest distinction, whose integrity is so highly regarded, who has training to look at facts, and make judgments, and who is willing to undertake to do this. He was the first person I thought of to do it who would be able to conduct it.
MD: You made this decision unilaterally?
HMB: Yes. It was my decision. It was my judgment that this was the way to proceed.
The McGill Tribune: It was reported that activating the [emergency alert] system [on November 10] could have increased the amount of students in the area. Why did the University act with mistrust of students, thinking that they would automatically incite violence?
HMB: What actually happened I think is a big question. One of the issues of course with demonstrations that are called for the University is that with social media everybody knows about them and anybody can come… Then the issue is not a question of distrust of students, it is a question of the mix of protesters you get in…a climate of activism. So any demonstration can become a bit of lightning rod for activists across the city with a range of issues. That’s one of the things that has to be dealt with.
Le Délit: Are you concerned in terms of what happened in your office pertaining to students’ relationship with the security agents?
HMB: I’m very concerned with what happened, but I’m concerned in both directions. There are colleagues who feel they were hurt, there were people who were pushed aside by masked intruders who wouldn’t identify themselves.
LD: So you feel we can wait [for the Jutras Investigation to conclude on December 15]?
HMB: I think if anyone wants to file a disciplinary complaint or press legal charges, this does not get in the way of them doing that.
MD: If there is some kind of dispute over the process which Professor Jutras goes through for his investigation, who would people go to in a situation like that?
HMB: Well, it’s all going to be public, so what won’t be public will be the names of people, and no person will be identified by name.
MD: So if one of these anonymous people have an issue, what can they do?
HMB: That’s what I’m saying. They can be using the disciplinary process, they can be filing a complaint, they can be taking legal action. And they don’t need to be waiting until the report comes out to do that… This is not an investigation for people that are looking at perpetrators and victims, this is not an investigation to do that. This is an investigation to understand: Did processes fail? How did processes work? Were there groups that could have done things differently? In general, is there a sense of responsibility in one direction or another to do things differently, should a similar situation be on the horizon?
LD: Have you read the McGill Security Services’ report?
HMB: I have only seen some video footage, and as I said, I wasn’t here, so Friday I had a briefing. Thursday, I was off-campus and had a briefing in real time on it, both while the occupation was going on, and while the riot police were here. Then I had a pre-set meeting with a group of professors first thing in the morning on Friday, so I met with them then, in full. I had asked Thursday night for all the people that I [wanted] to come in to give a full briefing so I could hear their point of view.
LD: If you thought that there were claims against employees, would you wait for the “victim” to come forward or would you be able to bring it up yourself?
HMB: I have not seen anything that would make me take action before December 15. I was very concerned about hooded, masked people, breaking their way in, pushing staff, and not identifying themselves, nor even saying what their purpose of being there was. That’s very concerning to me. If there was any abuse in any direction I expect that will come out in the report, and that will form the basis of judgments of what to do next.
MD: So even though staff members have said they were pushed or felt scared, there is not evidence to lay disciplinary charges?
HMB: No, I’m saying that it’s up to them, if they’re going to do that, if someone feels they were hurt, and the only evidence I saw was a video clip. So do I believe that there were people who were masked and hooded in my office? Yes, because I saw a video of it, and some who weren’t.
LD: What about the allegations of assault on the fifth floor during the occupation?
HMB: I’ve actually seen no evidence that that happened. I’ve received no complaint, and I’ve received no evidence that happened, and I’ve asked Professor Jutras to investigate for me. There are a lot of allegations out there, they’re very general allegations.
LD: They’re actually pretty specific. I don’t know if you’ve seen the coverage of The Daily?
HMB: I’ve certainly seen the coverage of The Daily, and I see no evidence presented in support of them. We do have due process here, and no one has filed a complaint through the normal channels for due process. The Daily is not a vehicle for due process.
LD: On November 10 – this is from eyewitness account – I saw seven security managers who were standing by while people were crying, they offered no help. How do you react to this?
HMB: You say you experienced this, I know a lot of people felt upset and felt isolated on Thursday evening, and I feel terrible about it. If that’s what happened, I feel terrible about it. And then that raises a question of qualifications to do that and that’s something we’ve got to look at.
—Compiled by Erin Hudson