Correction appended Dec. 16
The Dean of Law has called for the University to review its security services’ standard operating procedures for campus protests, and to increase lines of communication with student groups.
His recommendations come in light of the events of November 10, and were commissioned by Principal Heather Munroe-Blum.
The sixty-page report is the result of an independent internal investigation, conducted by Dean of Law Daniel Jutras, after riot police dispersed a student demonstration in front of the James Administration building with pepper spray and tear gas while 14 students occupied the Principal’s office inside.
The report’s terms of reference, provided by Munroe-Blum, asked that Jutras “not make findings about or assign blame to specific individuals.”
It includes six recommendations, including that University authorities “should revisit the standard operating procedures” of Security Services, and “the lines of authority, chain of command, and channels of communication between senior administration and Security Services.”
According to the recommendations, a key shortfall in McGill’s current Emergency Management Plan is the omission of directives or frameworks addressing “protests on campus, other than in reference to ‘Animal Rights Events.’”
“People I spoke to at other universities have, for the most part, some framework, response or some standard procedure that addresses civic protests,” Jutras told The Daily. “There are quite a few universities with fairly detailed frameworks of this nature but we don’t have anything of the sort.”
The report also recommends greater communication between the University administration, Security Services, and Montreal police regarding the role of police – in particular, riot police – as well as provision and participation in an open forum to discuss the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly on campus.
According to Jutras, the report represents “a very extensive and intense effort to provide the fullest possible picture of the events as they unfolded.”
In a press conference an hour after the report was released, Munroe-Blum said that, though she had read the report “very quickly, only once,” she thanked Jutras for his work on what she deemed “a very thorough report.”
The report includes a detailed chronology of events, and draws upon 150 written submissions, over 45 hours of voluntary and solicited interviews, and other accounts in the public domain.
Munroe-Blum refused to comment on the report’s recommendations in her press conference “out of respect for the McGill community, the fact that this is a McGill event, and that it is an objective within the McGill community to use the learning from the events of November 10 to continue to make McGill an ever better place.”
“The place for us to have a full debate and discussion on this is in our governing bodies and in fora of the University, and that is where we will do that in the first instance,” she added.
Munroe-Blum said the report will be discussed in Senate, which will be live streamed on January 18.
Students, staff and alumni have objected to the internal investigation.
A letter addressed to the Board of Governors’ chair, Stuart Cobbett, states that its 180 signatories and 11 signing campus organizations feel the investigation and report were “irreparably compromised” from the start.
“When events have been so damaging and continue to be so contentious, trust in the University as a space of free expression and dissent can only be restored through a genuinely independent and external inquiry,” the letter states.
When asked about objections to the internal investigation, Munroe-Blum responded that Jutras’ affiliation with McGill is fully disclosed and she feels “the report will stand on its own merits.”
Jutras said he didn’t think “another investigation would bring out much more, in terms of factual account, than what I’ve been able to put together.”
Chris Bangs, organizer of the Independent Student Inquiry (ISI) published on December 1, said the ISI is “pretty happy our report corresponded pretty closely with [Jutras’].”
He noted Jutras’ access to “very specific” materials such as security footage and radio correspondence. “It would be nice if we – as a community, not just the Independent Student Inquiry – were able to see some of the sources that he relied on so heavily.”
Bangs also pointed to “some holes.” Regarding the report’s distinction between the lockdown and card-only [McGill ID card] access procedures, Bangs said, “We don’t know how many buildings it was enforced on and from when to when.”
According to the report, some people were trapped in stairwells or buildings, notably between the Arts and Ferrier buildings; the lockdown procedure was ineffective in the McConnell Engineering building, however, as people held doors open.
“If some of the concerns we still have aren’t really addressed and we aren’t able to address them ourselves in our report, that’s worrying for me,” said Bangs. The ISI’s final report will be released in January.
Joël Pedneault, SSMU VP External, also spoke to lingering questions, such as the presence of police officers on bikes.
According to the report, the presence of officers on bikes on campus cannot be explained “with certainty.”
“Something that I’ve noticed looking at the recommendations is that they don’t talk about some of the substantive grievances that people voiced on November 10,” Pedneault said. “They’ll be looking at sort of the processes in place for future protests, but not looking at the root cause of protests.”
Jutras said the report is part of an “ongoing conversation on campus regarding November 10, and how we can move forward.”
“Other people should start talking about what they see as the consequences of these facts, but the good thing, I hope, is that we now proceed from a shared factual basis,” he added.
—with files from Queen Arsem-O’Malley
In an earlier version of this article, Daniel Jutras was quoted as saying the report represents “a very extensive and tense effort.” In fact he said the report represents “a very extensive and intense effort.” The Daily regrets the error.