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1969: Inside the Sir George Williams student protest

The Story

Is there racism at Sir George Williams University in Montreal? White and black students believe so, and they are protesting it by occupying a ninth-floor computer lab in February 1969. Their complaint dates back to the previous year, when a smaller group charged that Professor Perry Anderson had discriminated against several black Caribbean students when handing out grades. A committee was struck to investigate, but by the end of January the affair was unresolved. Invited inside the computer centre, the CBC program The Way It Is talks to students and professors about the issue.     

Medium: Television
Program: The Way It Is
Broadcast Date: Feb. 2, 1969
Host: Patrick Watson
Guests: Chester Davis, John Laffey, Michel Despland
Duration: 8:41

Did You know?

• The occupation ended in a riot on Feb. 11, 1969. Police arrested 97 people and two million dollars' worth of computer equipment was damaged or destroyed. Two years later the university (which later became Concordia University) introduced a new process for dealing with charges of racism and created an ombudsman's office.

• Among the student protesters was Anne Cools, who would go on to found a Toronto women's shelter. She was named to the Canadian Senate in 1984 and was the first black person to hold a seat there.

• Roosevelt "Rosie" Douglas was also one of the protesters. He was tried for inciting the riot and served two years in prison before being deported. He went on to become prime minister of the Caribbean nation of Dominica.



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