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1. Background information and context

1.1 Context

It is important to situate the events of November 10 in their larger context. I do not mean to suggest that there is a causal connection between this larger context and the specific events that took place on campus on that day. It would not be rigorous for me to draw this type of conclusion on the basis of the evidence I received in the context of my investigation. Nonetheless, the events on campus on November 10 did not occur in a vacuum. I wish to highlight here three elements of the context in which these events took place.

First, the events of November 10 took place within the larger context of popular movements re-claiming and occupying public space in all the major cities of North America and elsewhere. For several weeks before November 10, the news media were saturated with images of social activists young and old challenging established political structures through the physical occupation of highly symbolic space, from Wall Street in New York City to Victoria Square in front of the Montreal Stock Exchange. The Occupy Movement, to the extent that it can be said to project a single voice, expresses deep distrust of political and financial elites, highlights sharp inequities in the distribution of wealth, and proposes alternative models for democratic governance. In mid-November, after several weeks of peaceful occupation, many of these movements faced increasing pressure from political authorities and police forces. By late November, most occupations had ended, in some cases after violent confrontations with police forces across North America. While the occupiers of the fifth floor of the James Administration Building at McGill did not claim any intellectual or political affinity with the Occupy Movement, it is notable that their banner read “10 Nov. Occupons McGill,” that they refused to express grievances or make demands to McGill staff or administration during their occupation, and limited themselves to the highly symbolic occupation of a primary space of University governance as a manifestation of their challenge to the existing power structures within the University.

Second, the events of November 10 took place on a day of extensive protests against impending tuition increases announced by the Quebec government. The demonstration brought together students from post-secondary institutions across the province, and twenty to thirty thousand of them marched on the streets of Montreal. They ultimately made their way to the corner of McGill College Avenue and Sherbrooke Street, across from McGill’s Roddick Gates, where they assembled in front of the Montreal office of Premier Jean Charest. The demonstration remained peaceful until the late afternoon. After the bulk of the protesters had left, some of those remaining confronted the police, the demonstration grew more intense, and a few projectiles, including a fire extinguisher, were thrown at a police line protecting the entrance to Premier Charest’s office. The specific context of this larger protest is not neutral in relation to what took place on campus on November 10. In addition to the political mobilization of scores of protesters and the collective energy drawn from a long day of protests, the events brought police forces, including the Montreal Police Intervention Group, to the vicinity of McGill University. Nonetheless, as is discussed in Part 2, it is clear that the fifth floor occupiers did not simply leave the protest to spontaneously stage an occupation of the Principal’s office.

Third, the events of November 10 took place as the McGill community was in the third month of a strike of the members of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA). This unprecedented labour dispute put a strain on the morale of the McGill community, and gave rise to some dissension within and across the University’s different constituencies. Everyone suffered from the absence of 1700 employees, and from the added burdens, delays and disruptions. Some students and professors voiced their opposition and distrust of the University’s senior administration, some in the strongest language. Some people fiercely opposed an injunction obtained by the University in this context, which restricted the scope of picketing and demonstrations by MUNACA members. Some faculty and students saw the administration’s position during the strike as evidence of the declining scope of free speech and peaceful assembly on campus, or as a manifestation of deeper problems within McGill’s governance. The dissension was expressed in tense meetings at the University Senate over the fall of 2011, and in public statements in various media and Web-based fora on and off campus. This tension between different segments of the McGill community, as well as the change in the tone of debate and discourse that accompanied the labour disruption of the fall of 2011, also serve as elements of the context in which the events of November 10 took place.

With this context in mind and in an effort to establish a common starting point for reading this report, I now turn to a brief description of the physical sites that are most relevant in this report.

1.2 Physical Space

The events of November 10 occurred primarily in and around the James Building. Outside, the key site is an area unofficially designated “James Square.” The James Building is on the north side of the Square. To the east are Wilson Hall and the Milton Gates. These Gates open onto the intersection of Milton Street and University Street. To the west, up a gentle slope, are the Ferrier Building and Dawson Hall. The McConnell Engineering Building is to the south of the Square.

There are three primary doors to gain access to the James Building. The “Front door” is on James Square and leads to the building’s ground floor. The “Back door” is on the opposite side of the building, and faces north. It leads to the back of the building’s second floor. The “Southwest door” faces a small area between the Ferrier Building and the James Building, and was the door for the Student Service Point before that was moved to McTavish Street. The Southwest door leads to the front of the building’s second floor. There are other entry points to the James Building in the connection to the “Annex,” as well as through a loading dock located on the west side of the building, approximately ten meters north of the Southwest door.

Inside the James Building, there are two stairwells, one on the north side, which can be accessed from the vestibule of the Back door (“North stairwell”), and one on the south side (“South stairwell”). There are also two elevators, both located in the center of the building. The Principal and Provost’s office suite is located on the fifth floor of the James Building, with windows facing south onto James Square. It can be accessed from three points of entry:  

(i)           From the fifth floor landing of the South stairwell, one can enter directly into the Principal and Provost’s Reception area (“the Reception area”) through double doors (“the Stairwell doors”). In the Reception area there is a desk, and three doors on card-only access, each leading to a different area. One door leads to offices of various members of the Principal’s staff. Another leads to the vestibule of the Principal’s office. The last door (with a glass panel) leads to the Provost’s suite (the “Provost’s door”). This last door – the Provost’s door - is the most relevant in this report. The space behind these three locked doors constitutes “the Secure area.” The offices in the Secure area are joined by communicating doors, so that it is possible to move unimpeded from the Provost’s suite to the Principal’s suite and to the back offices.

(ii)          One can also take the North stairwell to the fifth floor, walk across the building towards the South side and past the elevators and enter the Reception area through double glass doors (“the Hallway doors”).

(iii)         Finally, the Secure area is served by a fire exit towards the back of the James Building. This route is also controlled by card access.

As a final background matter, before turning to the chronology of events, I think it useful to briefly describe the structure of Security Services at McGill. I turn to this description now.

1.3 Security and Safety Organization at McGill

On its webpage, McGill Security Services defines its mission in the following terms:

Security Services is committed to supporting the goals and mission of the University by providing a safe and secure environment for all.

We achieve this through guidance, prevention and response.

We strive to work in partnership with the McGill community and other agencies to preserve the safety and security of people and assets of the University, and to provide superior service during normal operations and in times of crisis.

Operational and managerial authority for security intervention and response at McGill rests in the hands of a small team of McGill employees (“the operations management team”). These employees are responsible for prevention and security concerns across campus and oversee the work performed by contract security agents provided by Securitas, a private agency. There are five members on the operations management team, all of whom work under the direct authority of Mr. Pierre Barbarie, the Associate Director of University Safety (Security Services). The members of this team do not wear a uniform. Among other things, the five members of this team are charged with the safety planning for University events on and off campus. In emergency situations, they also manage the operations of the responding security units, and intervene directly at the site of the emergency. In addition to this operations management team, two McGill employees in the Security Services sector are charged with community relations (“community relations team”). This team provides services that focus on prevention and safety awareness (such as instruction in self-defense, non-violent crisis intervention, and the provision of safety tips to various groups and individuals). The creation of the community relations team, a little over a decade ago, was intended to emphasize the prevention and community relations dimensions of Security Services’ mandate, rather than the reactive and crisis management practices that prevailed in the past. While its primary focus is on prevention, safety awareness and partnership with the University community, the community relations team may also be called upon, in emergency cases, to participate in direct field responses. On November 10, all seven individuals (the five members of the operations management team and the two members of the community relations team) were directly involved in the intervention that took place. In this report, these seven individuals will be referred to collectively as members of the “Operations Management Group.”

In addition to the Operations Management Group, security services are provided by security agents employed by Securitas, a private agency under contract with McGill. These agents remain employees of Securitas, and wear a uniform identifying them as Securitas agents, with the exception of a baseball cap with a McGill University crest. All Securitas agents answer ultimately to a Securitas Captain, who is under the direct authority of Mr. Chris Carson, the senior member of the Operations Management Group, himself working under the direct authority of Mr. Pierre Barbarie. This is not an unusual structure, and other universities also run their security services in this manner, bringing together a university-based management team and security agents from a private agency. At McGill, there is a core team of approximately sixty-five agents who only work shifts at the downtown campus. At any given moment, there are up to a dozen Securitas agents on the downtown McGill campus. Of these twelve agents, two work inside the Ferrier Building’s Security Operations Center (SOC), including the Controller who sits at the main console. The others are assigned to patrol on foot or by car, or to fixed locations on campus. In addition to the core group of regular Securitas agents, McGill retains from time to time the services of additional agents to address specific needs. For instance, at any given time, another fifteen to twenty agents are on duty on a temporary basis to secure the various construction sites on the downtown campus, protecting pedestrians from the risk of injury. Similarly, during the MUNACA strike, the number of Securitas agents working for McGill was increased by as many as twenty agents. On November 10, the number of additional personnel assigned to strike-related duties was only six agents.

In this report, all of the contracted security agents will be referred to collectively as “Securitas agents.” Further, in this report, members of the Operations Management Group and the Securitas agents will be referred to collectively as “the Security Team.”

The Security Team works within written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), including procedures regarding labour disruption and civil disobedience. The McGill Security SOPs form part of the training of members of the Operations Management Group and Securitas agents. All Securitas agents working on the regular shifts at McGill receive on-site training in the specific operating procedures of McGill Security, ranging from sixty-four to one hundred forty-four hours depending on their position. In addition, all members of the Operations Management Group have been trained in non-violent crisis intervention, and two of them provide this training to other people on campus. Over the past six months, specific training addressing social diversity and equity issues has also been provided to members of the Operations Management Group.

All calls to the security number at McGill (#3000) go to the Security Operations Center and are addressed as the circumstances require, including through the dispatching of members of the Security Team to the relevant location. Calls made to 911 from a landline on campus are connected directly to the Montreal 911 Dispatcher, and monitored by McGill’s SOC so as to coordinate the response of McGill security with outside emergency organizations.

In addition to ultimate oversight of the Security Team, Mr. Barbarie’s mandate as Associate Director of Safety (Security Services) includes oversight of the University’s Security System Technology. This technology serves to lock and unlock the premises on campus for which access is controlled centrally, particularly those doors on campus that operate on card access. Buildings where the system is effective can be put on either “card-only access,” which enables people to go in and out using their access cards, or on “lock-down,” which normally precludes both entry and exit.

In the University’s organizational chart, Mr. Barbarie’s Security Team answers to Ms. Louise Savard, Director of University Safety, and operates within the University Services portfolio headed by Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) Jim Nicell and ultimately by Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa.