Content Warning: The following statement discusses issues related to sexual violence. We encourage readers to use their discretion in engaging with the content and to access the support resources listed below as needed.
For Immediate Release: February 22, 2017
The Students’ Society of McGill University is announcing the resignation of Vice-President (External Affairs), David Aird, effective as of 9:30am this morning. The SSMU has been made aware of community concerns regarding the conduct of Mr. Aird in the context of his elected position, specifically regarding acts of sexual violence towards some of our members. We unequivocally condemn any actions of the Vice-President (External Affairs) that have caused harm in our community.
Several SSMU Executives were previously made aware of concerns regarding Mr. Aird. While the information provided did not allow for immediate disciplinary action and internal measures were taken, we apologize that the Executive Committee as a whole did not proactively assess the full impact of such behaviours. It is not appropriate to place the burden of advocacy on those most affected and more should have been done to provide safe and accessible channels for recourse in this regard.
The SSMU is thankful for those who have made the difficult decision to come forward with their disclosures, and reaffirms that we are here to support, respect, and validate their experiences. We further recognize the systemic nature of sexual violence and are committed to supporting and expanding upon initiatives to reduce sexual violence and promote safe(r) spaces. We will actively respond to requests to formalize and improve upon our reporting procedures for addressing complaints of sexual violence.
To this end, we will be working with groups including the Community Disclosures Network and SACOMSS to centralize and build upon existing complaint channels, including those available through SSMU Human Resources and the Board of Directors. We will make an effort to clearly identify the procedures, possible outcomes, and accountability mechanisms for disciplinary action against SSMU representatives as well as to develop anonymous and third-party reporting channels where possible. In addition, we will work to make accessible resources on these protocols available to student-run groups, staff, volunteers, and students-at-large. Finally, we will work with qualified groups on campus to provide improved sensitivity training for our elected representatives on how to prevent, respond to, and report disclosures of sexual violence.
The Vice-President (External Affairs), as a member of both the Legislative Council and the Executive Committee, is responsible for coordinating the Society’s relationship with external associations, government, and the Montreal community. In addition, they support student-run political campaigns and promote Indigenous solidarity and francophone culture initiatives. For the remainder of this semester, these responsibilities will be delegated among the SSMU Executives and relevant staff members. Steps will be taken to ensure that all essential tasks are completed with minimal disruption in service to our members.
Thinking about your experience of sexualized/gendered violence might be difficult, and it might feel retraumatizing. That is a perfectly natural response and you don’t have to be alone. Here is a non-exhaustive list of Montreal-based resources which offer a variety of supports:
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/wp/
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.mcgill.ca/psc/
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. http://mcgill.ca/saap/
The 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
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/
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.mcgill.ca/nightline
CIRCLES, a community response and resource: “CIRCLES is a resource, a letter of solidarity to fellow survivors, and a reconstruction of what it means to heal collectively.” Includes in-depth listing of support services available. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a pdf copy.
Community Disclosure Network: The Community Disclosure Network, 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 the former Vice-President (External Affairs). If you would be interested in participating or would like more information please email email@example.com.