Quebec Order of Dentists finds former McGill professor guilty of sexual misconduct

CW: SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Nareg Apelian, a former assistant professor in McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry, has yet to receive a date for his disciplinary hearing, where the Quebec Order of Dentists (QOD) will decide on the consequences for his sexual misconduct. Back in February, the Order found him guilty of groping a student during an off-campus dentist appointment in 2016. The dentistry student, whose identity is protected, made an appointment with Apelian to adjust her mouthguard. Apelian requested to see her at his off-campus clinic, where he groped her in a locked room.

Immediately after the appointment, the student filed a complaint with the Montreal police and McGill. Apelian maintains his innocence, arguing that he required the student to come to his off-campus clinic for accommodations because the necessary equipment was unavailable at McGill. If he is not able to overturn the QOD’s guilty verdict, he may face a suspension of less than five years.

The QOD found Apelian to have violated section 59.1 of the Order of Dentists’ Professional Code, which regulates appropriate workplace conduct.

“The fact of a professional taking advantage of his professional relationship with a person to whom he is providing services, during that relationship, to have sexual relations with that person or to make improper gestures or remarks of a sexual nature, constitutes an act derogatory to the dignity of his profession,” the Code reads.

The police investigation, initiated in response to the complaint, was concluded in May 2017 after the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) missed the deadline to pursue any charges against Apelian. The SPVM declined to comment on the investigation.

Apelian was placed on administrative leave from McGill in Dec. 2016 following the incident, although the university’s investigations failed to implicate him. He returned to work after the university concluded its investigation in January 2017. After the QOD’s guilty verdict, McGill cut all ties with the assistant professor at the end of February 2019. Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies) Angela Campbell attributed McGill’s failure to remove Apelian from the University as a result of the different tools at the QoD’s disposal.  

“An external authority like an administrative tribunal leads a quasi-judicial process and, consequently, has access to ‘tools’ or measures that are not available to the University,” Campbell wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “For example, it can issue subpoenas to compel anyone to testify and/or to provide documents and information. The tribunal’s process is based on examination and cross-examination of witnesses and the parties themselves, which provides a better opportunity to test the evidence and the credibility of witnesses. These powers are provided by law. The University does not have these powers. “

Soon after McGill concluded the investigation, the student stated in an interview with CBC that the administration had actively worked to discredit her during her testimony. She stated that she felt as though members of the administration had colluded before meeting with her, enabling them to undermine her testimony throughout the investigation. The Tribune also uncovered a series of emails between members of the administration who had contacted the student’s professors regarding her class attendance without her consent.

The Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry Elham Emami wrote to the Tribune expressing her commitment to the safety of dentistry students.

“This has been a difficult issue for our Faculty, and one that we have taken very seriously,” Emami wrote in an email. “As Dean, I’m committed to ensuring and maintaining a safe and secure learning environment for our students.”

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