For some people, reporting an experience or experiences of sexual violence can be a part of their healing process and a way to find justice. There are multiple avenues through which a student at McGill can report sexual violence – including to the police or within the University context. Reporting to one of the bodies below does not stop an individual from making a report to another organization at the same time or at a later date.
If you are unsure of what next steps you would like to take, or require further clarification on your options, the on-campus SACOMSS Advocacy-Branch and O-SVRSE can provide more information.
You have the right to bring a support person to any and all meetings with the police and/or McGill. If you would like a support person or accompaniment to either of these meetings, you can bring in any individual (including a friend and/or family member) or you can contact:
The criminal justice system is set out under the Canadian Criminal Code, with provisions relating to sexual assault covered in sections 265 through 276. These provisions cover the legal definition of sexual assault, sexual harassment, consent, and protections for survivors, such as the “rape shield” law. The “rape shield” law, codified in Section 276 of the Code, consists of limitations on a defendant’s ability to introduce evidence or cross-examine rape complainants about their past sexual behavior.
If a survivor, upon experiencing an act of sexual violence, chooses to pursue a complaint through the criminal justice system, they will first file a complaint with their local law enforcement agency.
The circumstances for this initial complaint may vary; the complaint could be taken at the scene of the crime, at the hospital, or directly in the police station at a later date. Additionally, at McGill, criminal justice complaints may be made with the McGill O-SVRSE Office, who have a relationship with the SVPM (Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal) and can accompany survivors to any subsequent meetings with law enforcement officials.
At the first stage, the police officer will document brief details to make an initial report. The initial report will then lead to an investigation being conducted by an officer trained in the area of sexual assault. The Officer in Charge will lead the investigation into the complaint in order to decide whether or not to press sexual assault charges. If the officer decides not to press charges because they deem that there is not enough evidence, the case will be labelled “unfounded”. If the officer decides to lay charges, that person becomes the “accused” and the survivor becomes the respondent. If the charges lead to a trial, the trial process and timeline can vary from a few months to a few years.
A survivor may be required to testify and be cross-examined by the defense lawyer. At the end of the trial, a judge or jury will make a decision of guilt; if the accused is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt the judge will render a sentence. More information on the process of reporting sexual violence to the criminal justice system and legal processes can be found here.
Within McGill, there are multiple avenues through which individuals can make complaints regarding sexual violence. The Policy Against Sexual Violence sets out a framework of support for survivors of sexual violence and the process for making a complaint. Any member of the McGill community can make a complaint under the Policy. If an individual experiences sexual violence at work and they work in a unionized position, they may also be able to file a grievance with the help of their union. The SSMU also has a Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy under which individuals can make complaints. It is important to note that telling someone in a position of power that you experienced sexual violence is not the same as making a report of sexual violence. Each policy has its own specific entry point. At the same time, you do not need to make a formal report to receive support and accommodations, both at the SSMU and in the larger McGill context.
The Policy Against Sexual Violence involves a centralized reporting and investigative procedure, led by an independent investigator. To make a report, an individual can contact the Special Investigator by either sending an email (at firstname.lastname@example.org), mailing a letter, or making a verbal report.. It is possible to make an anonymous report by email or by letter. For more information on how to make a report, follow this link.
Once a report has been filed, the Special Investigator will conduct an initial review to determine if there is jurisdiction, if mediation (also known as an informal resolution) is an option, and whether immediate measures are needed. The investigator will then decide whether or not to initiate an investigation. If an investigation is initiated, those who conduct the investigation should be trauma-informed, maintain procedural fairness, take an intersectional approach and be completed within 90 days. At the end of the investigation, the Special Investigator will write a report to the Provost that include the facts of the case, whether sexual violence has occurred, and a recommendation as to whether disciplinary and/or administrative measures should be taken. The Provost will issue a final decision based on this report, which will be communicated to all parties within 14 days of receiving the report (or of receiving any requested clarifications). Following this, disciplinary and/or administrative measures will be taken, as appropriate. Disciplinary processes resulting from an investigation and a finding of responsibility of sexual violence by a McGill student will fall under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.
If students feel that the investigation did not follow the policy, they can file a complaint under the Student Grievance Process.
The employment of unionized staff members is regulated by a collective agreement, an agreement made between their union and the University. Under this agreement they hold certain rights and have a framework to make a complaint against their employer, called a grievance. The grievance process differs between unions; to find out more information individuals should contact their union directly. A list of the unions at McGill can be found here.
The Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy serves to create confidential and survivor-centric processes for members of the SSMU community who have experienced sexual violence and/or gendered violence to receive support and accommodations and make a complaint about sexual violence. The policy provides both informal and formal mechanisms informed by a survivor-centric approach that takes into account the wishes and needs of the survivor.
More information about the policy can be found here.