Late in the afternoon of November 10, 2011, a group of fourteen individuals (“occupiers” or “fifth floor occupiers”) gained access to a secure area on the fifth floor of the James Administration Building (“James Building” or “James”) at McGill University (“McGill” or “University”). Principal Heather Munroe-Blum’s office is located in that secure area and the group intended to occupy that office. Within eight minutes of the occupiers’ entry, they had been moved out of the secure area – two forcefully so - and into James’ fifth floor reception area.
Also in the late afternoon of November 10, 2011, as the events were unfolding on the fifth floor, a crowd gathered in front of and around the James Building. The crowd – and the protests’ intensity - grew over an hour-long period. Some members of the crowd made their way into the building and occupied an area on the second floor. Eventually, the Intervention Group of the Montreal police (commonly referred to as the “riot police” or “riot squad”) forcefully dispersed the crowd. The occupiers on both the second and fifth floors of James eventually left the premises unharmed, after a brief negotiation with McGill authorities.
I was asked by Principal Munroe-Blum to conduct an investigation into these events. 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 the 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 scope of the investigation 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. Over the past month, I conducted over forty-five hours of interviews with students (including, but not limited to, five of 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 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.
I have kept and will keep all submissions confidential. The content of all written submissions I have received, either electronically or in hard copy, has not been and will not be made public or disseminated or communicated to any person other than me, my legal advisor and my two assistants. I take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to Ms. Kate Glover and Ms. Dia Dabby, both of whom are doctoral candidates in the Faculty of Law, who assisted me with the utmost care and diligence throughout the investigation and preparation of this report.
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.
Part 1 of the report provides some background information. I offer 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 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. Part 2 presents the chronology of events of November 10, based on information drawn from the sources to which I have had access. Part 3 contains recommendations arising from what is revealed in the chronology of events. Part 4 summarizes those recommendations.
In this report, I speak for no one but myself, and seek to serve no one but the University as a whole. I am a professor and a Dean at McGill, and in that sense my investigation is no more and no less independent than if any other member of the McGill community had conducted it. The investigation was independent in the sense that it was conducted at arm’s length from anyone else in the McGill community. I hope that the content of the report shows that I have approached the investigation without any bias, with truth as my only objective.
Dean of Law
December 15, 2011