Update about the encampment

Dear members of the McGill community,

My last update on the situation on downtown campus was on May 3, the day after police had mobilized to successfully de-escalate tensions between large numbers of protesters and counter-protesters in front of the Roddick Gates.

Since the beginning of the encampment, we have had many discussions with representatives of members of the McGill community participating in the encampment to try to find a timely and peaceful resolution. These talks are still ongoing.

I write today to let you know that McGill is seeking a court order that would require those participating to dismantle the encampment, and to refrain from camping on or occupying McGill’s downtown campus. The order would authorize the Montreal police (SPVM) to enforce it.

I would like to emphasize that the order, if granted, would not stop our efforts to continue our discussions with members of the McGill community participating in the encampment. We are committed to doing so in good faith.

The University wishes to see a peaceful and timely resolution of the occupation of the lower field of downtown campus.

Why McGill is seeking to dismantle the encampment

McGill is seeking the order to dismantle the encampment for multiple reasons.

  • The University is concerned about the risks that the encampment poses to the safety, security and public health of members of the McGill community and for those participating in the encampment. Neither McGill nor organizations such as the Montreal Fire Prevention Services have been able to go into the area to verify compliance with health and safety. For example, it appears that the people inside the encampment have no escape routes in case of fire. The encampment, which is densely populated, backs onto the McLennan Library building and is barricaded by fencing on three sides. There appears to be only one point to enter or exit the encampment. The encampment also obstructs an emergency exit at the McLennan Library.
  • The presence of the encampment has already attracted large numbers of protesters and counter-protesters of different viewpoints, causing tensions to escalate on campus. The encampment has the potential to create unsafe situations unpredictably. On May 2, protests in support of and against the encampment required the mobilization of more than 100 police officers and the closure of part of Sherbrooke Street.
  • Although we welcome the public to many spaces on our campuses to walk, eat lunch, attend events, or other time-limited activities, the University remains private property. Our campuses are primarily for the use and benefit of members of the McGill community. An occupation such as the encampment monopolizes university property, preventing the McGill community from using that space for their normal activities. The encampment will, in all likelihood, prevent students and their families from celebrating this spring’s convocation on lower campus, where the ceremonies for most faculties normally take place.

McGill respects the right to protest

Protection of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are justifiably a primary concern for the members of our community, for Montrealers, for Quebecers and for Canadians. Therefore, I want to reassure our community that our application for this order does not ask the court to stop protests that follow the University’s policies or the law, even if those protests raise uncomfortable, controversial and/or critical speech.

The application for the order instead asks that any further protests are conducted in a way that does not pose risks to people’s safety, security or health, and remain within the bounds protected by the law and McGill’s policies. The encampment is not a protest but a continuous occupation that prevents members of our community from using the space and which creates real risks to health and safety.

Those participating in the encampment can find other ways to exercise their right to peaceful protest within the bounds set by the law and our policies.

The fundamental importance of McGill’s mission

McGill exists to carry out its mission, which is the advancement of learning and the creation and dissemination of knowledge. McGill does not make decisions regarding its investments or academic activities on the basis of geopolitical matters, but rather uses its mission, principles and policies to guide its decisions.

The University’s focus must be to offer the best possible education, to carry out research and scholarly activities judged to be excellent by the highest international standards, and to provide service to society. To do so, we must offer all members of our community a safe and secure environment, free from violence, harassment, obstruction and intimidation.

Finally, I want to reassure graduating students that, despite the uncertainty caused by the encampment, you and your families will have the opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments at spring convocation. The dates will be the same; we will confirm location shortly. 

Thank you for reading this long message and for your ongoing patience and understanding.


Deep Saini
President and Vice-Chancellor


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