CANADA — The Canadian equivalent to First Amendment rights forthe student media took a blow in October when a judge decided in favorof a Montreal student government association that locked a university studentnewspaper out of its offices.
The McGill University Student Society, a student government body, changedthe locks on the office doors of The McGill Daily because it saidthe newspaper’s lease had expired.
The lease agreement was entrusted to the student society by the universityin the form of a student union in the early 1990s, and the student societysublet The Daily’s office space to the paper until 1994 when thewritten lease expired. Every year since then the lease was extended, allowingthe paper to stay. The Daily has occupied the space for more than30 years.
In a June 1 letter to The Daily, the student society said thelease expired the day before and ordered the staff to vacate its offices.After several failed meetings and negotiations, the student society changedthe locks on the doors to The Daily’s offices.
“To view this case simply as a landlord/tenant problem is to misunderstandthe case,” said Michael Bergman, the attorney who represented The McGillDaily. “The student government has abused whatever rights it has tocause or provoke the end of the lease.”
The judge ordered The Daily to vacate its offices by Oct. 21,but the student society and the paper reached an agreement before then.The Daily signed a three-year lease for a smaller space and a 40to 50 percent increase in rent, according to Bergman.