Harassment & Discrimination FAQ

What is considered harassment?

Harassment is repeated unwanted or hostile conduct that has a negative impact on the person and results in a harmful environment for the person. In the employment context, a single serious incident may constitute harassment.

Policy Definition

According to section 2.7 of McGill's Policy on Harassment and Discrimination, harassment is "any vexatious behaviour by one Member of the University Community towards another Member of the University Community in the form of repeated hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures, that affect the dignity or psychological or physical integrity of a Member of the University Community and that result in a harmful environment for such an individual. Within the employment relationship, a single serious incidence of such behaviour that has a lasting harmful effect on such an individual may also constitute Harassment."

What is considered discrimination?

Discrimination is any action that disadvantages someone based on any prohibited ground of discrimination (e.g., race, sex, national origin, disability, religion etc.).

Policy Definition

According to section 2.6 of McGill's Policy on Harassment and Discrimination, discrimination prohibited by law is "any action, behaviour, or decision based on race, colour, sex (including gender identity), pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age (except as provided by law), religion, political conviction, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a disability or the use of any means to palliate a disability which results in the exclusion or preference of an individual or group within the University community. This includes both the actions of individual members of the University and systemic institutional practices and policies of the University."

Who is covered by the Policy?

The Policy applies to all members of the University community - this includes all students, faculty, and administrative and support staff.

Who do I contact for more information?

If you have questions or want clarification on policies or processes, don't hesitate to reach out to the Senior Equity and Inclusion Advisor (SEIA) or one of the Assessors to talk confidentially. There is no such thing as a question or concern that is too small - regardless of what kind of assistance you need, the SEIA or the Assessors can help connect you to the appropriate resource or service. 

How do I report an incident?

If you are ready to report an incident, please reach out to the Senior Equity and Inclusion Advisor (SEIA). The SEIA acts as the intake person for all complaints under the Policy on Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law. It is the SEIA's job to help you through the reporting process by making it as clear and straightforward as possible.

If you wish, in your initial email to the SEIA you can include a filled-out version of the Complaint Form. This will start the process of filing a complaint. However, you can also contact the SEIA without the form if you wish to ask a question or discuss your situation confidentially before deciding to report an incident.

Visit our page on Making a Complaint for a step-by-step explanation of the process.

What if I witnessed - but did not directly experience - harassment or discrimination?

It is not possible to submit a third-party Complaint under the Policy. However, we understand that witnessing harassment or discrimination can be traumatic and that it can be difficult to know what to do in this situation. As a third-party witness, you can still contact the SEIA to make a confidential inquiry and to learn how to support a person who may have experienced harassment or discrimination. As a witness, you can also access a wide range of support resources offered at McGill.

Can I submit an anonymous Complaint?

It is not possible to submit an anonymous Complaint under the Policy. However, you can anonymously contact the SEIA (e.g., by phone) to discuss your situation or ask any questions before deciding to submit a complaint.

What do the terms "Complainant" and "Respondent" mean?

A Complainant is a McGill community member who considers that they have been subject to harassment and/or discrimination and who has filed a Complaint against another McGill community member.

A Respondent is a McGill community member who is the subject of a Complaint made by another McGill community member.

Why is the Respondent entitled to receive the Complaint?

As a matter of procedural fairness, the Respondent receives the Complaint so that they can know the nature of the complaint against them and provide a meaningful response. After the Respondent receives the Complaint, they provide a written response that is then shared with the Complainant.

Who is responsible for investigating Complaints?

After a Complaint is received, the case will be assigned to an Assessor for investigation.

Who are the Assessors?

Assessors are members of the University community who investigate Complaints received under the Policy. Assessors are appointed by Senate and serve three-year terms. Half of the Assessors are members of academic staff and half are members of administrative and support staff. Typically, the SEIA is the first point of contact for inquirers and the SEIA assigns Complaints to the Assessors. However, inquirers may also contact an Assessor directly with their inquiry.

What are the different resolution options?

A Complaint can be resolved by mediation or formal investigation.

If I choose to pursue mediation, what happens then?

If you choose to pursue this option, all parties are first contacted and asked if they agree to resolve the matter through mediation—all parties must agree before the mediation process can begin. If this is the case, then the SEIA will refer the matter to a mediator with appropriate skills and training. The mediation process can take different forms: for example, the mediator may help the parties speak directly with one another in the same location, or a mediator may shuttle back and forth between parties in separate locations. If a matter cannot be resolved by mediation within 30 working days, then the Complainant can choose to proceed to an investigation.

If you have questions about the mediation process, don’t hesitate to contact the Senior Equity and Inclusion Advisor (SEIA).

If I choose to pursue a formal investigation, what happens then?

If you choose to pursue this option, the SEIA will assign the Complaint to an Assessor who will conduct the investigation. Typically an investigation is completed within 30 working days, though it may be extended if necessary with the consent of the parties (the maximum period for an investigation is 60 working days). At the end of the investigation, the Assessor will provide a written report to the Provost and the involved parties that includes the findings of relevant facts, the conclusion, a recommendation as to whether disciplinary measures should be taken, and any other recommendations appropriate to the resolution of the Complaint. The Provost will then issue a decision based on the Assessor's report, and this decision is communicated to the parties.

Can a Complainant withdraw a Complaint?

A Complainant can withdraw a Complaint any time before an investigation begins. After an investigation begins, a Complainant can withdraw a Complaint with the consent of the Respondent.

My complaint relates to a situation that occurred several years ago. Can I still make a Complaint?

A Complaint must be brought forward within one year of the action, behavior, conduct, or decision that is the subject of the Complaint. However, you can access any of McGill's support services regardless of when the incident occurred.