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February 2013

A message from Anthony C. Masi, Provost, and Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance)

Subject: Statement of Values/Operating Procedure

We are beginning a new phase of consultation in our continuing discussion about the Provisional Protocol, which was established last February in the wake of the second occupation of offices in the James Administration building.

Based on consultation on the draft of a revised protocol circulated to the community before the Holiday break, we concluded that the preamble of the proposed protocol was generally well received and that McGill would be best served by splitting the document into two: a Statement of Values on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly, and a document outlining operational procedures that would explain how demonstrations and similar events would be treated.

These new documents can now be found at http://blogs.mcgill.ca/values, where you may also consult some of the background material that informed them. As well, you may leave comments and see those of others.

In addition, we will hold two Consultation Fairs: at Macdonald Campus (February 13th) and on the downtown campus (February 20th), where members of the community are invited to share their views. More details about the time and location of these events will be shared with you soon on the website.

Following the Consultation Fairs, the Statement of Values will be revised accordingly and will be brought for approval to Senate’s March 20 meeting and, on April 26, to the Board of Governors. The operating procedures, being the administrative response to demonstrations, will not be ratified at Senate or Board, but we welcome comments in relation to these, for our consideration.

The two documents have been developed following extensive consultation over the past year, including the work of Dean Christopher Manfredi, via his Open Forum events and his ensuing report, the Symposium on Free Expression and Peaceful Assembly last spring and other events during which the subject of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were discussed.

In addition to the broader consultation with the community, including employee groups, students, faculty and staff, we have also examined best practices and benchmarked our approach with those of many of our university peers, and especially considering those with campuses in the heart of major cities.

We feel these new documents reflect elements of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms of Quebec, and it is worth quoting from that legislation:

“Every person is the possessor of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.” – Article 3

“In exercising his fundamental rights, a person shall maintain a proper regard for democratic values, public order and the general well-being of the citizens of Quebec. In this respect, the scope of the freedoms and rights, and limits to their exercise, may be fixed by law.” – Article 9.1

The issues we are dealing with are not new, nor are they unique to McGill. We aim to balance the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly, the right to protest and demonstrate, with the need to provide a safe and secure environment, where people feel comfortable and are free to go about their work and their studies.

We wish to emphasize the importance of the community’s contributions to this process. As mentioned, there remain opportunities to provide input, and we encourage you to do so and to encourage others to do so as well.

We take this opportunity to thank all members of our community who have already taken the time to contribute to the discussion surrounding these matters and we look forward to your input in the weeks ahead.