Keeping Up With MUNACA

Strike Coordinator Gets Cuffed

  • MUNACA strike coordinator Joan O’Malley says she was chest-butted by a member of the SPVM as she was forcibly arrested at a McGill alumni luncheon. Photo Jacob Roberts

On Oct. 14, Joan O’Malley—a 63-year-old woman and striking non-faculty employee of McGill University—was forcefully arrested in the entrance to the Bonaventure Hotel, as McGill’s labour dispute grew even more heated.

Until Sept. 1, O’Malley was a secretary in the Pathology Department at McGill. Since then, she’s been a strike coordinator for the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association.

The 42nd annual Leacock Luncheon—a meeting of McGill alumni—was held in a ballroom of the Bonaventure Hotel. Outside the hotel, a group of MUNACA workers were picketing, not in protest of the event, but to make the alumni entering the building aware of their situation.

Several members of MUNACA are themselves McGill alumni, and had purchased a table at the Leacock Luncheon where they intended to hand out flyers and encourage the attendees not to donate any money to McGill until after the university and its workers had come to an agreement.

O’Malley and five others were stopped just inside the entrance by McGill security and members of the Montreal police.

“The first thing I’d like to say is, I’m extremely distressed about this,” O’Malley told The Link.

Because the hotel is not on McGill property, and the luncheon is open to any McGill alumni with a ticket, O’Malley believes that their presence—especially just inside the entrance of the hotel—was well within their rights.

As soon as McGill security saw O’Malley, they singled her out to the SPVM.

According to O’Malley, a McGill security agent—someone she knew from having worked at McGill and considered a colleague—said, “That’s Joan O’Malley, she’s an organizer, she’s a troublemaker, get her out of here.”

O’Malley said she asked to speak to the hotel management, as she wanted to know if the Bonaventure had requested the security presence or if it had been McGill.
When she was denied this request, O’Malley and her party began to leave, but were immediately stopped. She said an SPVM officer chest-butted her, at which point she put her hands up in defense.

“I screamed for help, I couldn’t believe I was being attacked by a police officer at the invitation of McGill security. I didn’t believe I had done anything illegal,” said O’Malley. “Who are you going to call when it’s the police who are attacking you?”

Four police officers pushed her up against a wall, spread her legs, confiscated her cell phone then handcuffed her and took her outside. They put her in the back of a police car and drove around to the back of the hotel.

The police then gave O’Malley a ticket for impeding pedestrian traffic and released her.

McGill officials denied any responsibility for the arrest.

Michael Di Grappa, a former Concordia VP and current Vice-Principal of Administration and Finance at McGill, told The McGill Daily that, “If we have an event at another location, that location is responsible for security and they can take whatever security measures they deem appropriate.

“Our people might be there to assist with their own people, to help identify our VIPs that need access, but we don’t have any authority off-site.”

O’Malley pointed to the incident as evidence of the divide not just in negotiations between the two sides, but also in the basic relationship between MUNACA and the McGill administration.

“Where is the dialogue, where is the community? Where is, ‘We’re all one, we’re all McGill?’” she asked, referencing McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum’s rhetoric. “Get yourself on strike at McGill and you’ll find out we’re not all McGill. There’s the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ I just happen to be one of the have-nots.”

Neither McGill University nor Securitas, the private security company employed by McGill, could be reached for comment. The SPVM was also unavailable.

You can watch video of O’Malley’s arrest by searching for ‘MsUnionGal’ on YouTube.

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