McGill University defends coaching students, staff on active shooter scenario

McGill University is standing by its decision to coach faculty, staff and students on what to do if an active shooter is on campus as new the school year begins.

But Dawson opts to forego the video, saying it triggers too many painful memories

'They have to be able to know what to do,' said McGill's deputy provost of student life and learning, Ollivier Dyens. (McGill University/YouTube)

McGill University is standing by its decision to coach faculty, staff and students on what to do if an active shooter is on campus.

McGill released a 12-minute video, in collaboration with the University of Alberta, which teachers have been asked to show their students. 

The video shows an armed gunman prowling through a school, and suggests steps people should take to protect themselves. 

"There is no easy way to do it but as opposed to Dawson, McGill, thank God, has not gone through such an event," Ollivier Dyens, McGill's deputy provost of student life and learning, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"We want to make sure people are aware of these things."

The 12-minute video is being shown in classes at McGill University. (McGill University/YouTube)

The video begins with a warning about its content, and Dyens said that students are allowed to leave the class if they need to.

But the university's decision to screen it in classrooms has garnered both criticism and support on campus.

"I think it's mostly going to scare students that it could happen and make them feel unsafe," said Harjas Mann, a second-year engineering student.

Others argue McGill's latest security measure is necessary and helps prepare students for the unthinkable. 

"I think it shows the gravity of the situation because it's a scary thing and I think the video does a fine job of portraying how serious it is," Peggy Giordano, a political science student, said.

"It should be startling to people, it should be troubling and I think that's what this video is trying to convey."

'They have to be able to know what to do'

The video, shown in schools across Canada, focuses predominantly on three actions: get out, hide and — if there is no other option — fight.

Students can been seen screaming and running as the sounds of gunfire ring through the halls. Some hide under desks while others make it out of the building with tears streaming down their faces.

One classroom is left with no choice but to fight the suspect, who enters with a rifle in hand.

The video is a dramatization of an active gunman in a school. (McGill University/YouTube)

"We want faculty to be aware of this because if this happens students will turn to their faculty to guide them through this," Dyens said. "And they have to be able to know what to do."

Dawson not following suit 

The video is being screened in classrooms across campus at McGill as Dawson College prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of the shooting that killed 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa and wounded 19 others on Sept. 13, 2006.

The downtown Montreal CEGEP says it has taken steps to enhance security in the years that followed, but won't be following McGill's lead.

"I confess I have not seen that video and I don't think I can," Donna Varrica, the head of communications at Dawson College, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. She was the school's spokesperson at the time of the shooting. 

Students and staff are advised to leave the school if possible during an active shooter scenario. (McGill University/YouTube)

"There are trigger warnings all the time for those of us who lived through it. A certain smell, a sound," she said.

Since the shooting, Dawson has changed its camera surveillance system and implemented dead-bolt locks on the doors, but Varrica said the school doesn't use simulation videos or exercises since it hits too close to what really happened.

"We also thought it was important to not create a climate of fear," she said.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak and Alison Northcott