Re­sponse to the State­ment of Re­trac­tion

The McGill Daily - - Contents -

To the ed­i­to­rial board of The Mcgill Daily,

We are writ­ing to you to ex­press dis­con­tent and dis­ap­point­ment re­gard­ing the re­cent state­ment of re­trac­tion by the Ed­i­to­rial Board. As loyal read­ers and sup­port­ers of the Daily, we have re­cently noticed a gen­eral pat­tern within the work put out by your pa­per of a more lib­eral, wa­tered­down ver­sion of the anti- op­pres­sive pol­i­tics the Daily claims to up­hold. The re­cent state­ment of re­trac­tion re­gard­ing Pro­fes­sor Ibrahim was the last straw.

We want and need the ed­i­to­rial board to know that their state­ment reads as:

I. An apol­ogy to Ibrahim. The state­ment lit­er­ally closes by stat­ing that the Daily “apol­o­gizes to par­ties neg­a­tively af­fected by such er­rors.”

II. Dele­git­imiza­tion of the al­le­ga­tions and ac­cu­sa­tions lodged against Ibrahim.

Please do not try and ex­plain the courage it took to pub­lish that ar­ti­cle in the first place. Please do not try to ex­plain the dif­fer­ence in lan­guage be­tween ac­cu­sa­tion and al­le­ga­tion, or the re­al­i­ties of be­ing legally charged with sexual as­sault. This was not clearly com­mu­ni­cated in your state­ment, which ig­nored the mul­ti­plic­ity of sys­temic bar­ri­ers that so of­ten pre­vent abusers from be­ing held ac­count­able through the ju­di­cial sys­tem.

We are un­in­ter­ested in the le­gal li­a­bil­ity that the Daily faces in this si­t­u­a­tion – of course, there is the risk of be­ing seen as slanderous. How­ever, this does not jus­tify the com­plete and ut­ter slop­pi­ness of the state­ment of re­trac­tion. A lawyer’s ob­jec­tive will al­ways be to serve the best in­ter­ests of their em­ployer in a risk-averse way. It is en­tirely un­sur­pris­ing that their ad­vice to you on this mat­ter would have erred on the side of cau­tion and con­ser­vatism. You should have taken this ad­vice into con­sid­er­a­tion, and weighed it against both your knowl­edge of the con­text at play here and your sense of jour­nal­is­tic and moral in­tegrity.

How likely is it that Ibrahim would have fur­ther harmed his own rep­u­ta­tion by fol­low­ing through on his threat of le­gal ac­tion against a small in­de­pen­dent stu­dent news­pa­per, when every ma­jor pa­per in the prov­ince has al­ready re­ported ex­ten­sively on the al­le­ga­tions against him? How likely is it that he would win that case? As a sup­pos­edly anti-op­pres­sive pub­li­ca­tion, the onus is on the Daily to assess the risks that they take with their val­ues in mind. In our opin­ion, your Ed­i­to­rial Board has failed to do this in a mean­ing­ful way.

There are so, so many bet­ter ways you could have gone about this. If this re­trac­tion was made un­der le­git­i­mate le­gal duress, you could have cho­sen to pub­lish any threats of le­gal ac­tion that the Daily re­ceived. You could have con­sulted mem­bers of the Mcgill com­mu­nity who were sub­ject to threats from Ibrahim as well (such as the SSMU). You could have re­tracted the lan­guage, but ac­knowl­edged that the lack of le­gal ac­tion in no way dele­git­imizes or un­der­mines the years of al­le­ga­tions put for­ward against Ibrahim. When you wrote “we apol­o­gize for not us­ing the cor­rect word­ing in this ar­ti­cle,” in that con­text, it was not in­cor­rect. An ac­cu­sa­tion is an ac­cu­sa­tion.

Your state­ment of re­trac­tion is, frankly, em­bar­rass­ing. It is care­less, thought­less, and makes the Daily less trust­wor­thy than it has ever been. Your pub­li­ca­tion used to speak up against abusers in the face of le­gal risk – what hap­pened? At its core, this law­suit is about si­lenc­ing those who speak against sexual vi­o­lence and the Daily has since had an im­mense role in sup­port­ing these voices and crit­i­ciz­ing those abus­ing their power. This re­trac­tion is ul­ti­mately ad­her­ing to the de­mands of cen­sor­ship to pro­tect abusers, at the ex­pense of sur­vivors.

The pur­pose of our state­ment is not to taint or com­pro­mise the Daily’s rep­u­ta­tion – you are do­ing that just fine by your­selves. His­tor­i­cally, marginal­ized stu­dents have looked to the Daily to rep­re­sent our in­ter­ests in a just and crit­i­cal way, and we are of the opin­ion that this is no longer pos­si­ble. Our let­ter was sent as con­cerned mem­bers of the com­mu­nity who want to urge the Daily’s Ed­i­to­rial Board to fol­low their man­date of anti- op­pres­sion in a way that stands up for marginal­ized stu­dents.

Signed, An ad hoc col­lec­tive of sur­vivors and their al­lies

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