McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry has come under scrutiny following a Dec. 14 CBC report on student allegations of harassment and sexual assault by multiple professors and employees. A former McGill student reported having been sexually assaulted by a dentist at the University in November 2016 and another student filed a case claiming psychological harassment and bullying by seven Dentistry professors in March 2017.
According to the student who accused a McGill dentist of sexual assault—whose identity remains anonymous—the incident occurred during a mouthguard adjustment which the dentist insisted should take place at their off-campus office. The student later reported to McGill and the Ordre des dentistes du Québec (Quebec Order of Dentists) that the dentist groped her during the operation.
Several months later, the student met with Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies) Angela Campbell and Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry Paul Allison to discuss the incident, and found the conversation neither supportive nor survivor-focused.
"I felt like they were trying to discredit my story by excusing whatever he did and trying to formulate it into some kind of treatment plan," she told the CBC.
In a statement to The McGill Tribune, however, Campbell claimed that handling sexual assault cases in a careful and empathetic manner is a priority for the University.
“Services and accommodations are provided to any person who discloses an experience of sexual violence, regardless of whether they report the matter to McGill or external authorities,” Campbell wrote. “It is therefore disappointing to learn of any incident where a member of our campus community did not feel fully supported by our processes and resources.”
Allison was not able to comment before press time.
According to the CBC, the accused dentist was suspended from work for the duration of the McGill’s investigation into the incident, but was eventually permitted to return to the University under certain conditions and limitations. Campbell said she was unable to divulge the details of these conditions to both the complainant and the Tribune.
“Where the person who is disciplined is a McGill employee, information about the disciplinary process and conclusion is private as a matter of law and the University therefore cannot make the outcomes known,” Campbell wrote. “We understand that our inability to share this type of information may be frustrating for some members of our community, but it is a legal constraint to which we are bound.”
The complainant also reported the case to the police and was told that the Crown prosecutor had authorized charges against the dentist in question, but a month later learned they had missed the deadline for getting the case underway. The Quebec Order of Dentists continues its investigation into the case—now over a year after the alleged incident—but was unable to comment to the Tribune due to confidentiality restrictions.
The case has sparked discourse in a number of McGill’s student societies, including the Dentistry Students’ Society (DSS).
“As of now, the DSS is not aware of the identities of the parties involved,” the DSS wrote in a statement to the Tribune. “This incident in particular did not involve any members represented by the DSS. Nevertheless, the DSS condemns all forms of sexual harassment and violence. There is no place for sexual misconduct in the field of dentistry.”
The reports were also discussed at the Jan. 11 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council meeting, during which Vice-President (VP) External Connor Spencer announced that the Our Turn Task Force—which will pursue the goals of SSMU’s Our Turn Action Plan—will be investigating attitudes toward consent and sexual assault in each faculty.
“The Our Turn task force has been struck, and I’ve sent emails to every one of the faculties asking for faculty representatives,” Spencer said. “The task force will look at rape culture in each one of the faculties and examine what is being done to counter or address [it].”
Paul Allison, President of the Faculty of Dentistry, was unable to comment by press time.
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