I was asked by Principal Heather Munroe-Blum to conduct an investigation into certain events that took place on the downtown campus of McGill University on November 10, 2011. My task was to undertake a fact-finding exercise, to give an accurate account of the chain of events, and to make recommendations so as to avoid repetition of these events in the future. The terms of reference were contained in a letter addressed to me, dated November 11, 2011. The letter is appended to this report, along with a statement that I distributed to the McGill Community by email and presented to the McGill Senate on November 16, explaining how I intended to proceed.
This report is the fruit of the investigation.
The sequence of events presented in this report is a chronological factual account, based on information drawn from the sources to which I had access. The scope of my mandate did not - and indeed could not - include the power to compel testimony or the production of documents. Nonetheless, members of the community responded willingly to my call for submissions and factual accounts. I undertook to preserve the confidentiality of all communications made to me in that context, so as to benefit from the largest possible number of submissions. Over the past month, I conducted over forty-five hours of interviews with students (including, but not limited to, five individuals amongst the "fifth floor occupiers"), professors, administrators, staff, alumni, and security personnel. I received and read close to one hundred fifty written submissions. I consulted the factual accounts published in the public domain, including interviews and written submissions received by a student-led inquiry that was conducted independently of, but in parallel to, my own efforts. I reviewed hours of videotape from security cameras in and around the James Building, as well as from cell phones and cameras belonging to students and staff. I also reviewed a large number of videos of the events posted on YouTube and other websites. I listened to the audiotape of the communications of security personnel over the relevant period on November 10. I reviewed McGill's emergency policies and protocols, and spoke to representatives of the Montreal Police, as well as heads of security from other universities located in a downtown setting.
The investigation was not intended to replace or supersede other established procedures either within or outside the University. The process I conducted was not structured so as to meet basic guarantees of procedural fairness for those whose conduct may come under scrutiny, and as a result, I have been careful not to make any nominative assignment of blame or findings of wrongdoing.
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
On November 10, 2011, twenty to thirty thousand students walked the streets of Montreal in protest of impending tuition increases announced by the Quebec government. The demonstration's final destination was the corner of McGill College Avenue and Sherbrooke Street, in front of Premier Charest's office and across from the main gates of McGill University's downtown campus. Late in the afternoon on that day, after at least a few days of advance planning, a group of fourteen individuals gained access to a secure area on the fifth floor of McGill's James Administration Building. Principal Heather Munroe-Blum's office is located in that secure area and the group intended to occupy that office. Some occupiers were wearing bandanas and hoods or hats; they flew a banner reading "10 Nov. Occupons McGill" from a fifth floor window; they moved from office to office in the secure area; they physically blocked two doors giving access to the Principal's area; and three occupiers entered the Principal's office. The Principal was not in her office at the time - nor at any time during the occupation - as she was on a flight from Toronto to Montreal.
In the three minutes following the occupiers' entry into the secure area, McGill Security received six calls from staff working on the fifth floor of the James Building, and a signal from the area's panic button. McGill Security dispatched agents to the scene and soon thereafter called the Montreal police for assistance. Four police officers from the neighborhood PDQ (Poste de Quartier) arrived on the scene thirty minutes later.
Within eight minutes of the occupiers' initial entry onto the fifth floor and well before the arrival of the police, McGill Security moved the occupiers out of the secure area and into the fifth floor reception area. Twelve occupiers were moved out of the secure area without the use of force. The remaining two - both of whom were in the Principal's office - were forcefully and physically removed by members of McGill's Security team. Thereafter, the fourteen occupiers remained in the reception area for an hour and twenty minutes, without further confrontation with security agents and without any contact with the police. During that period, the occupiers frequently communicated with the outside world through phone calls, text messages and tweets; an interview with CKUT also occurred with one of the occupiers during that time.
As the events were unfolding on the fifth floor, a group began to gather in front of and around the James Building. Individuals within this group received word via text messages, tweets and phone calls from the occupiers on the fifth floor that members of McGill's security team had assaulted them. The occupiers encouraged their contacts to come to the James Building to support the occupation. Many people outside James tried to enter the building, but the doors were locked and protected by members of the security team. People in the crowd formed human chains in front of the main doors of the James Building and demanded entry. Staff members working in the building were prevented from leaving. Some members of the crowd eventually made it past security and occupied an area on the second floor.
The crowd outside of the James Building - and the protest's intensity - grew over an hour-long period. Protesters gathered at the corner of Sherbrooke and McGill College were invited through megaphones to "occupy McGill." McGill Security restricted access to and exit out of many buildings around the main campus perimeter, but no general alarm message was sent to the McGill community. By late afternoon, the crowd of protesters in the James Square had grown to approximately one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty individuals. After a brief but intense confrontation between the crowd and a small group of police officers on bicycles, in front of the James Administration Building, the Intervention Group of the Montreal police (commonly referred to as the "riot police") forcefully dispersed the crowd from McGill campus using shields, batons and pepper spray. Some bystanders and observers, as well as students and staff walking across campus were unwillingly caught up in the police action and removed from the area. This operation was conducted at the initiative of the Intervention Group without any request for assistance by McGill Security or McGill authorities with regard to the demonstration on campus. The only call from McGill to the Montreal Police or Emergency services on November 10 was made in the minutes following the occupiers' initial entry onto the fifth floor of the James Building.
The Provost of McGill University arrived on the fifth floor of the James Building after the ejection of the occupiers from the secure area and after the arrival of four police officers from the neighborhood PDQ. After a brief negotiation with the Provost and Deputy-Provost, in which the occupiers were given amnesty from disciplinary and criminal charges, the occupiers on the fifth floor left the premises, as did the occupiers on the second floor.
CONTEXT & RECOMMENDATIONS
In addition to the chronology of events, the report includes a brief description of the context in which the events of November 10 took place - the widespread phenomenon of occupation of public space in urban settings, the concomitant student protest on impending tuition increases, the strike of MUNACA employees at McGill and the general climate of governance at McGill. This is followed by a general description of the physical space in which the events of November 10 occurred and of the structure of Security Services at McGill. In addition, the report contains some recommendations arising from what is revealed in the factual account. In particular, the report advocates further efforts to clarify (i) the scope and meaning of free expression and peaceful assembly on campus; (ii) the nature and scope of security on campus; and (iii) the University's external relationships, with particular attention to the presence of police forces on campus.