McGill Riot Report
Sixty-Page Security Scrutiny Released
Almost two months after the events of Nov. 10, when riot police physically dispersed students on the McGill University campus after the anti-tuition hike protests, a report on the incident authored by Dean of Law Daniel Jutras has been released.
In the 60-page report, Jutras suggested revisions to McGill security policies and
procedures, a strengthening of the relations with the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal and an open discussion with students and faculty to “discuss the meaning and scope of the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly on campus.”
The report gives some new insights about the riots as well as the McGill security’s reaction. According to the report, McGill security tried to lock down some of the buildings to prevent further occupation, with mixed results.
“The lockdown created several problems for people in more remote buildings, and prevented access from people who were seeking assistance after having been pepper-sprayed.”
Jutras questioned the effectiveness of communication during the event, pointing out that most students and faculty members who were in class at the time were not given any clear instructions about the lockdown.
The Automated Emergency Notification System “was not activated to warn the McGill community that the situation in James Square had escalated to a potentially violent confrontation.”
“Many students did not know where to go when they had been pepper-sprayed or been hit with batons by the riot police. They couldn’t get in the buildings because they were on lockdown, [so] there was no obvious place to go,” said Students’ Society of McGill University President Maggie Knight. “It’s alarming and disturbing.”
The report ends by encouraging “McGill authorities […] to obtain from police authorities a better understanding of the conditions that, from their perspective, led to the presence of the Intervention Group on campus on Nov. 10.”
Though the report includes a timeline of the events and six main recommendations, responsibility for the police response is not assigned, as McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum specifically instructed Jutras in an open letter on the McGill website “not [to] make findings about or assign blame to specific individuals.”
According to Sgt. Ian Lafrenière, a media relations agent with the SPVM, the presence of the riot police on the McGill campus was caused by an initial scuffle between bike police and a small group of individual throwing “projectiles” at the officers.
The officers used their bicycles “to protect themselves and retreat,” but the confrontation was also facilitated by the fact that “the Intervention Group was at the corner of the street, dealing with the [Nov. 10 Day of Action] demonstration.”
Citing questions regarding the impartiality of Jutras’ investigation, an independent inquiry was launched by a group of McGill students, producing a preliminary report on Dec. 1. The 24-page report was co-authored by 10 students, and features numerous testimonies and recommendations.
“I think that the most frustrating thing was that so many administrators and staff refused to speak with us,” said Allison Cooper, one of the co-authors of the report.
“I think we definitely shared other people’s concerns about it being an internal investigation,” said Knight in reference to SSMU’s position on Jutras’ impartiality. “That being said, it was certainly not a concern about [Jutras’] personal or professional integrity but rather the structure perhaps is not going to give everybody faith in the process.”
Knight added that the authors of the student inquiry had presented their findings to the student council and SSMU had provided a space for its authors to conduct interviews.
The McGill administration refused to comment on the report, as Munroe-Blum announced she and Jutras would be discussing the report during the Jan. 18 McGill Senate meeting.
Students and faculty can view the report and submit comments here..
The Independent Student Inquiry preliminary report, as well as testimony from students and faculty, is available here.
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