Update on Plans to Address Gendered and Sexualized Violence at the SSMU

Update on Plans to Address Gendered and Sexualized Violence at the SSMU

Content Warning: The following statement addresses sensitive topics including recent events regarding gendered and sexualized violence within SSMU. Support resources are listed at the bottom of this statement.

March 23, 2017

The SSMU Executive Committee acknowledges that there is a systemic issue of sexualized and gendered violence at McGill University that urgently needs to be addressed. Recent events within SSMU, including the resignations of our Vice-President (External) and President, have brought public attention to this situation.

As discussed at our last Legislative Council meeting, we would like to clarify the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Ben Ger as President of the Society on March 9th. Following the statement made by the Community Disclosures Network concerning David Aird, a member of the community shared information with the CDN regarding the President’s own history of gendered violence. Based on these concerns, there was a recognized inadequacy in the President’s handling of the David Aird case and in his failure to uphold the safety of our members. It was felt that he was personally and professionally unsuited to continue in his responsibilities and position of authority as President of SSMU.

In light of these events, the SSMU Executive Committee is committed to ensuring that clear reporting and recourse procedures are put in place to respond to acts of sexual violence and hold SSMU representatives accountable for their actions. These should supplement existing procedures established through McGill University and external channels. We further recognize that this process must involve an ongoing dialogue with our members in order to improve the safety of our community and earn back your trust. It is with this in mind that we will be taking the following actions throughout the remainder of the term:

  • The current Executive Committee received training on Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence on Thursday, March 23, 2017. Similar training will be provided for the newly-elected executive team.
  • Vice-President (Student Life), Elaine Patterson, has been approved by the Board of Directors as the Acting President of the Society. Her primary contact will remain studentlife@ssmu.mcgill.ca.
  • Director Chloe Rourke has been appointed as the new Chair of the Board of Directors in the absence of the President.
  • Members of the Executive Committee are meeting regularly with the Community Disclosures Network to plan consultation measures and work towards implementing a long-term action plan. The Legislative Council and Board of Directors will receive updates on these developments.
  • An Open Forum regarding the creation and implementation of a SSMU Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy will be held on Tuesday, April 11th from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM in rooms 202 and 203 of the SSMU Building. All those who would like to contribute feedback are welcome to attend.
  • Focus groups will be held and facilitated by trained volunteers working with the Community Disclosures Network (CDN). These will only be open to members of the community who have experienced sexual violence. If you would like to attend one of these focus groups, please register here or email community.disclosure.network@gmail.com.
  • Any member of the community can also share anonymous feedback through this form, which will remain open until Friday, April 14th. All responses will be shared with the SSMU Executives and the Community Disclosures Network.
  • A report summarizing feedback, recommendations, and next steps based on these consultations will be published online and circulated to our members by Friday, April 30th.

In addition, the CDN will be reaching out to student-led groups on campus to participate in roundtable discussions and a series of skills workshops related to addressing sexual violence. These may include anti-oppressive and pro-survivor policy development as well as responding effectively to disclosures of sexual violence. Our goal is to ensure that students and student groups are equipped to foster safer communities and to continue this necessary dialogue beyond the current semester.



For students seeking support following the resignation of the Vice-President (External), the Community Disclosure Network (CDN), in conjunction with sexual assault activists on campus, is organizing a support group facilitated by trained volunteers that will be open to all those who have experienced any degree of sexualized or gendered violence by David Aird. There is a great range of experiences that have come to CDN through either the anonymous form, by email, or through personal disclosures — all are welcome to participate, whether or not you have disclosed anything to the network previously, or are planning to in the future.  All experiences are valid and are worth talking about. If you would be interested in participating or would like more information — as well as if you have any thoughts or comments on how CDN can make this process more inclusive — please email them at community.disclosure.network@gmail.com.

Montréal Sexual Assault Centre: Offers a range of free services to anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, incest, as well as survivors’ family and friends. Services include medical, legal and/or individual therapy for 18+; listening, support and referral for all ages; and a toll-free 24/7 helpline for all. 1-800-933-9007 ; 514-934-4504 http://www.cvasm.org

McGill Nightline: A peer resource offering a confidential, anonymous and non-judgemental listening, run by McGill students. Services include active listening, resource referrals and crisis management. 514-398-6246. http://ssmu.ca/nightline

Office for Sexual Violence, Response, Support, and Education: Resource run through the Office of the Dean of Students; for active listening as well as for addressing complaints and facilitating disciplinary action. They have trained Sexual Assault Respondents available on campus. www.mcgill.ca/saap

McGill Peer Support Centre: The Peer Support Centre offers free, non-judgemental peer support, and can help direct you toward other available resources. http://ssmu.ca/psc/

SACOMSS: The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society is a volunteer-run organization committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and their allies through direct support, advocacy, and outreach. Their services include Drop-In and Line (DIAL), Support Groups, Advocacy, and Outreach. http://www.sacomss.org/

Tel-Aide: 514-935-1101. Offers 24/7 free, anonymous, non-judgmental listening centre for people in distress in both English and French. http://www.telaide.org/en/

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