Content warning: violence and death
At approximately 1:45 a.m. on Sept. 18, the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) responded to a call about an assault on Sherbrooke Street, not far from McGill’s Roddick Gates. The SPVM reported that two men, of 20 and 23 years of age, were the victims of a stabbing. The incident may have involved other people; as of yet, there is evidence of three or four suspects fleeing the scene. The two victims suffered injuries to their upper bodies and were immediately rushed to the hospital. While the 20-year-old is reported to be in a stable condition, the 23-year-old passed away on Sept. 18. The SPVM is currently investigating the details of the event.
The morning of Sept. 18, many members of the McGill community were surprised to find the lower area of the downtown campus cordoned off and Sherbrooke Street flooded with police vehicles. Orange police tape ran along the campus perimeter and a police car was parked to block off the Roddick Gates. The stabbing incident occurred only a few hundred meters from McGill’s McLennan Library. Avery*, a U3 Science student who regularly stays at the library late, spoke to The McGill Tribune about the incident.
“I [am] so surprised because I was here yesterday night, and late as well,” Avery said. “[I] did not see anything. [But] now after what happened, I would not stay too late in the library.”
Avery was one of many students on campus that morning—and was not the only one to express concern about campus safety. Alier Magok, U0 Science, had not heard about the stabbing until he arrived on campus only to find most of it sealed off.
“I did not know what had happened,” Magok said. “But [then], when you first open Reddit and see ‘stabbing,’ it’s crazy. Nobody knew, the police hadn’t released anything, […] but you do not feel as safe because [of] everything happen[ing].”
The homicide was not the first violent incident that occurred close to McGill this year. Avery recalled an incident that occurred in May 2021, where a 21-year-old man was stabbed inside the McGill metro station. Despite sustaining injuries to his upper body, the victim survived. Avery reflected on how this increase in violence has made her feel.
“Recently we have been seeing a lot of stabbing occurring especially on St. Catherine,” Avery explained. “Back in May, there was a stabbing at the McGill metro, so that’s why I am not very surprised this is happening. It has been occurring a lot [near campus]. We thought that it was safe.”
Frédérique Mazerolle, McGill media relations officer, relayed the SPVM’s statement that the Sept. 18 incident did not have any connection to McGill.
“According to SPVM, an altercation unrelated to McGill took place downtown […] during the very early hours of Sept. 18,” Mazerolle wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “For a brief period, the surrounding area was restricted due to the police operation. Despite rumours circulating on Twitter, the investigation presented only [a] minor inconvenience to our community.”
While acknowledging the safety of the McGill community as the school’s first priority, Mazerolle explained that the school did have a department dedicated to safety on campus.
“McGill University, through the Campus Public Safety Department, […] offers services on a 24-hour basis to all members of the McGill community, such as safety escorts within certain limits to all students and staff at both the downtown and Macdonald campuses.”
Though the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) WALKSAFE and DriveSafe services were recently halted, one nighttime security service available to students is the Société de Transport de Montreal’s “Between Stops” program. The service runs as of 7:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. at different times of the year and allows bus drivers to let passengers off between stops if bus stops are too far from a passenger’s destination.
*Avery’s name has been changed to preserve anonymity.