Over three months after its launch, the Independent Student Inquiry (ISI) into the events of November 10 published its final report last Thursday.
The report comes about two and a half months after Dean of Law Daniel Jutras submitted his report on November 10 to Principal Heather Munroe-Blum. Originally scheduled to be released in January, the release of the final report was delayed while waiting on Access to Information (ATI) requests filed with McGill.
Chris Bangs, co-author of the final report and a U2 Economics and Political Science student, said in an interview with The Daily that he filed ATI requests with McGill on five separate dates between November 25 and January 19, some of which were resubmissions of previous requests.
McGill has yet to acknowledge receipt of a request that Bangs filed on December 15, and he has only received one set of requested documents, which related to animal testing. ATI requests at McGill are handled by the office of Secretary-General Stephen Strople. The Quebec Act respecting “Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information” states that the public body has a maximum thirty days to respond to ATI requests.
“Throughout this entire process McGill has not followed the law in its dealings with me,” said Bangs, “which is really regrettable.”
Bangs said that he received a letter on February 15 from McGill’s lawyers to the Commission d’accès à l’information requesting that the commission disregard some of the requests, due to their number and repetitious and systematic nature. Bangs also said Strople’s office cited understaffing from the MUNACA strike last semester as a reason for an extended delay on responding to the requests.
Bangs said it could take a year for his case with McGill to be heard by the commission, so he filed a grievance two weeks ago with the McGill Committee on Student Grievances. Bangs’ grievance contends that Strople’s office has violated Parts 1, 5, 6, and 31 of the Charter of Students’ Rights in the course of their dealings with him.
Part 31 of the Charter reads that “no personal information shall be disclosed by the University to a third party in a manner which permits the identification of the student.” The basis for the section was a similar letter that the Daily Publications Society – which is also in a dispute with McGill over ATI requests – received from McGill’s lawyers on February 15, which mentioned Bangs’ name.
Amelia Bagnoli, co-author of the final ISI report and a U3 Arts and Science student, contrasted the four ATI requests she filed with the SPVM to those Bangs filed with McGill.
“I got a letter that recognized that they received my Access to Information requests, got another letter stating that they were rejecting two of them and cited the law by which they were rejecting them, and then they allowed me access to my other requests,” said Bagnoli.
Bangs said the ISI wasn’t “relying” on information gained from ATIs.
“It would have been really nice to verify a lot of stuff in the Jutras Report, because we weren’t given access to any information,” he said.
The ISI received 34 accounts of November 10, none of which came from administrators or non-faculty staff. The final report states that “despite repeated requests, all refused to be interviewed, stating that they were participating only in Dean Jutras’ investigation. This continued even after the publication of the Jutras Report.”
The ISI presented the final report to SSMU Council last Thursday, and said that one of the main criticisms of it was a lack of perspective from the administration. Harmon Moon, co-author of the report and a U2 Arts student and Daily columnist, said the perception of bias was a “tragic consequence” of the administration declining interviews.
“We weren’t out for blood. So that they should refuse to interact with us on such an essentially innocent level is really galling,” he continued.
Bagnoli said the administration “definitely did block our inquiry from having a complete scope of things.”
The report made 10 recommendations, but Bagnoli said applying the recommendations was “outside the scope of our mandate.”
According to VP University Affairs Emily Clare, SSMU may pursue some of the recommendations.
She noted the fifth recommendation, that a “Protocol should be enacted which clearly specifies the process of an unbiased inquiry in the event that similar or comparable circumstances occur again on McGill campus,” would likely be pursued.
“This is something we’ve brought up multiple times in Senate,” said Clare. “McGill is not very open to the idea of having an external investigation.”
She also admitted that “the year is winding down, so we may not have enough time to really follow things through.”