Montreal has been ranked the ninth-best city for students in the world, according to QS Quacquarelli Symonds, an international higher education network that analyzes education throughout the world. It tied with Boston and Paris for ninth place.
The city fell three spots in the 2022 best student city ranking compared to 2019, going from number six to number nine.
London and Munich made up the top two student cities in the world while Seoul and Tokyo tied for third.
In order to be considered in the best student cities ranking, cities must have a population of over 250,000 people and be home to at least two universities featured in the QS world university rankings. Montreal currently has three: McGill University, Université de Montréal and Concordia University.
Although Montreal's affordability is competitive compared to many cities in the world — including Toronto and Vancouver — it ranked 52nd for affordability, according to QS. The affordability ranking is based on tuition fees, retail prices, an iPad pricing index, and the city's cost of living.
Montreal ranked 10th in the world for the QS student view ranking, which is based on the student experience in the city and the proportion of students who would remain living in the city post-graduation.
QS cited a friendly student environment and a world-class education as Montreal's main attractions for students across the globe.
Through an anonymous form, Montrealers aged 15 or older will be able to report any police stop experience they've had — even stops that occurred months or years ago.
Each user can specify how and where the police stop took place, provide context, specify their age, gender, ethnic or racial group, and say what they were doing — including their means of transportation — during the stop.
Since the project is an open data resource, all of the map's data will be accessible to anyone who wants to download it.
The INRS news release states that only 5% to 20% of police stops are recorded by the SPVM.
A 2019 independent report analyzing SPVM police stop data found that Indigenous and Black people are four to five times more likely to be stopped by police than white people in Montreal, the news release says.
"These were not cute storybook Eric Carle's 'hungry caterpillar' but rather something out of a horror movie," she said. "One or two would be sweet but to see each tree coated with these critters made us uneasy."
Experts told MTL Blog the bugs are most likely LDD moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) caterpillars, an invasive species that has been defoliating trees and pooping everywhere across Quebec, Ontario and the northeastern United States this year.
The moths, commonly known as "gypsy moths," were first brought to North America in 1869 by French artist Étienne Trouvelot, according to an online resource from the University of Wisconsin.
Without "many natural enemies," the moths were able to expand beyond Trouvelot's suburban Boston backyard to become "one of the most important insect pests of forest and shade trees in the eastern United States," the university explains.
McGill university insect pathologist Dr. Gary Dunphy told MTL Blog that, due to the natural ebb and flow of the population, LDD moth outbreaks occur every seven to 10 years.
They like trees such as oak, white pine, white spruce and birch, according to a fact sheet from the Invasive Species Centre.
Also, the caterpillars' tiny bodies are covered in hairs, called setae, which can cause a rash "somewhat like poison ivy," in some people, though it can be treated with antihistamines and over-the-counter medication, said Dunphy.
"The setae or hairs of the insets may elicit rashes several months after the larvae are gone, the hairs being entrapped in tree bark," he said.
They also poop everywhere and their feces, known as frass, makes an audible sound as it falls like rain, covering outdoor furniture, clothes and hair.
Like all LDD moth outbreaks, this year's problem will take care of itself as fungal and viral infections reduce their population, entomologist Gard Otis told MTL Blog.
"But we don't know what next year will bring," he said. "We don't know if the virus is going to sweep through this year and kill them. Or if we're going to have another high number next year before the virus takes them down."
Some communities spray a bacterial insecticide called BTK to control the pests, which "though totally harmless to your pets, to your children, and to yourself," can harm the food chain as it kills all moth and butterfly species.
"That's the insects that provide all the food for your little baby birds," said Otis. "Most of the songbirds here are feeding their young with caterpillars. So, what are they going to feed on?"
He said a more environmentally-friendly defence involves wrapping a burlap sack around the trunk of any tree in need of protection.
"What happens is the caterpillars crawl down out of the tree and rest on the trunk in the daytime. And they like to hide so they hide in the burlap and then you just shake them off into soapy water and that kills him," said Otis.
"So, if you have a few trees that you're worried about, you could do that and cut the infestation back to the point where it's not going to seriously harm them."
As for the caterpillars' long-term effect on the trees, themselves, Otis suggested that repeated visits can cause some damage.
"You have too many gypsy moths for too many years, a few trees will die, but most of them will bounce back."
Five months later, McGill has issued one statement and launched three investigations. But the accusers — who asked to be called "the girls" to protect their safety — told MTL Blog they've been left in the dark.
They said they received no updates on how investigations are progressing or whether the accused is facing any penalties.
Meanwhile, they said the student has continued attending classes.
McGill has been following its protocol for investigations into allegations of sexual assault — but this protocol has left the girls and other students in limbo for the majority of the school year.
"We can't feel safe on campus with him lurking around, viewing us as prey," one of the girls, Eva*, told MTL Blog.
Most of the girls were minors at the time of the alleged assaults, as was the accused student, whose name has not been released by the university or the police.
Eva told MTL Blog the accused student frequented bars near McGill residences where he would "talk to, touch and kiss [girls] who were drunk," and that he would persistently "beg" female students to "hook up."
In written testimonies shared with MTL Blog, each of the girls outlined how the accused student sexually assaulted them both off and on campus.
One of them said the accused sexually assaulted her when she was "completely blacked out" from alcohol.
What was McGill's reaction?
McGill responded to the December petition within three days. A statement written by Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning Fabrice Labeau assured the student body and the general public that McGill was "looking into the matter."
"Our foremost concern right now is student wellbeing," Labeau wrote. He expressed what he called a "steadfast commitment to a campus community where everyone feels safe."
Though none of the girls had formally reported their assaults to McGill at the time — something Eva said was because "the resources weren't publicized and the social consequences for reporting were immense" — that changed by the end of December.
Eva said one of the girls filed a police report, and three of the girls filed complaints with McGill, initiating three internal investigations. However, neither the police nor the university was able to confirm details of these investigations to MTL Blog.
A month later, the university had not issued any new statements nor updated the girls involved, Eva said.
MTL Blog asked Cynthia Lee, McGill's associate director of media relations, to confirm the status of the investigations in February. She said that according to McGill's Policy Against Sexual Violence, "when a formal report is made, the University must immediately appoint an external Special Investigator to conduct a full and impartial investigation."
She also said "the entirety of this process is covered by confidentiality regulations," and that she could not disclose any further information.
The silence surrounding the allegations began to disturb other McGill students who said they had to interact with the accused student in their classes.
Anna Ni told MTL Blog she attended an online psychology course with the accused student, where she said he would participate in group discussions while he was part of the ongoing investigations.
She said McGill's ambiguous response to the allegations made her feel "small and voiceless."
"I am grateful for the fact that McGill has resources that can help students struggling with this situation, but McGill's vagueness in their [statement] gave me the impression that they were not actively taking care of this situation," she said.
In a screenshot Ni took of her classmates discussing the accused student's presence in the course via group chat — which she shared with MTL Blog — one student asked, "I thought the school took care of this? Why is he still allowed to study?"
Amrita Kaur, a first-year student unaffiliated with the girls, told MTL Blog that McGill's communications to the student body following the incident — mainly emails consisting of links to support resources — felt "empty."
She emailed the Office of the Dean of Students to express her "extreme disappointment" in the school for allowing the accused student to attend classes "as if nothing ever happened."
"Now I wonder if it's true [...] all great institutions sweep sexual assault under the rug," she wrote in her email to McGill, which she forwarded to MTL Blog.
She said she did not receive a response from the university.
Lee told MTL Blog that at McGill, until an investigation is complete, "disciplinary actions cannot be taken pre-emptively […] however, interim measures are put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those directly affected."
Possible accommodations include late withdrawal from a course or a change in residence — but they only apply to survivors.
MTL Blog found that according to the Policy against Sexual Violence, the university can take pre-emptive disciplinary action if "there may be a risk of harm to any Member of the University Community."
MTL Blog asked Lee if the fact that the accused student was still attending classes meant that the university did not see him as posing a threat to university community members.
She did not directly respond to the question.
What is the 'Code of Silence'?
There is a legal reason why the university claims it is limited regarding what it can divulge about sexual assault investigations.
Brooklyn Frizzle, vice-president of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU), told MTL Blog they believe universities use this law as a "scapegoat" to justify a lack of transparency in cases of sexual violence.
Frizzle said this wasn't the first time students' questions about a case involving sexual misconduct were left unanswered.
"I've lost track of how many emails to the Dean of Students or to the Provost that I've seen, to which there was no response because the university can't legally give a response," they said.
Last year, representatives from l'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) started a petition to amend the Act so post-secondary institutions could "inform victims of the disciplinary measures taken against their aggressors."
"Evidence shows that [the Act] contributes to victims' lack of trust in institutional channels, since it keeps the person most affected by the complaint from accessing crucial information for their healing process and to their sense of safety at school and/or work," the petition read.
McGill's Policy states that all investigations should be conducted within 90 days. According to this timeline, the girls' investigations should have ended by April.
But even when the investigations are complete, the Code of Silence means the girls cannot be informed of the penalties that may or may not be imposed on the accused student.
As Lee told MTL Blog, "details or updates concerning particular cases cannot be provided to anyone outside those immediately involved."
This means other students won't know if they can expect to see the accused student in their classes again next semester.
Could the 'Code of Silence' change?
While the public may never know if and how the accused student has been disciplined, McGill's Annual Report on the Policy against Sexual Violence gives some indication of the number of investigations the school has conducted.
McGill provided MTL Blog with a copy of the Annual Report, which specifies that, in 2020, eight of nine completed investigations yielding "a finding of sexual violence" resulted in disciplinary action.
These actions included "admonishment and conduct probation, formal reprimand [and/or] cease and desist communication and contact orders," but it's unclear which actions applied to which investigations.
Out of 18 incidents of sexual violence reported to the university in 2020, 83% were submitted by women. Just one report was submitted by a man, while two were submitted anonymously.
In May, a National Assembly committee presented its findings on possibly amending Bill 64. However, whether the amendments pass remains to be seen. For now, those involved can only know that the investigations are finished.
A 2016 Université Laval study found that 36.9% of Quebec students, faculty and staff experienced some form of sexual violence by another person affiliated with their university.
"It feels constant, like there's [always] some big allegation of sexual violence that we're talking about that we're trying to pressure the university to respond to," Frizzle said.
"It's just the name [that] changes every semester."
*The source's name has been changed at their request to protect their safety.
With files from Ilana Belfer, MTL Blog.
If you require resources or assistance surrounding sexual assault in Quebec, the CAVAC helpline is available 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-532-2822. Other crisis lines and 24/7 options can be found at The Lifeline Canada.