Vow of Silence

McGill Faculty, Students Protest for Free Speech

Photo Erin Sparks

A crowd of students and faculty amassed outside McGill University campus Friday at 1:00 p.m., their mouths covered with green masking tape, as they protested in support of the striking McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association.

“We are going to march, with tape over our mouths, silently through the campus,” Derek Nystrom, an associate professor and member of McGill Faculty Labour Action Group, yelled through a megaphone.

“Imagine what can happen to us. Make no mistake, if they can silence MUNACA in the way that they are trying to here, they will silence the rest of us when our time comes.”

The silent protest made its way through the McGill campus to the administration building, where the swarm of protesters stared silently up at the dark windows. Three security guards stood outside the door, tensely waiting for the group to move on.

After a few minutes the group—still in silence—moved to University St. outside McGill’s walls, where Adrienne Hurley, an East Asian Studies Professor at McGill addressed a love-letter to the crowd, name-checking the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill, the Association of McGill University Support Employees, the McGill Faculty Labour Action Group and the Association of McGill University Research Employees

“I am thrilled with our growing solidarity. Along with the 1,700 members of MUNACA, the 3,000 members of AGSEM, and all the members of AMUSE and AMURE,” she said.

“MFLAG is joining a swelling critical mass that makes the possibility of an end to the authoritarianism increasingly likely.”

The demonstration was an act of solidarity for MUNACA, which—after an emergency injunction was filed by McGill administration—has been banned from assembling in groups larger than 15 people on McGill campus. They also aren’t allowed to be within four meters of a McGill entrance in numbers larger than 15.

The injunction is going to be revisited on Oct. 3.

Lerona Lewis, the President of AGSEM, doesn’t think the ruling was entirely fair.

“The judge happened to be someone who was at the Faculty of Management—and we all know how those things go,” said Lewis.

“It’s about my right to freedom of expression,” Lewis continued. “Out of freedom of expression comes new ideas and if you stifle freedom of expression you stifle new ideas from being developed. So you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot as a university.”

Nystrom considered the demonstration a big success, saying he was surprised and encouraged by the number of people who came out.

“I think it’s a sign that everybody is finding a common cause in realizing that the attack on MUNACA, and their free speech rights and their freedom of assembly—is an attack on us all,” Nystrom said.