'I was humiliated': Student believes racism behind expulsion from Trudeau event

'I was humiliated': Student believes racism behind expulsion from Trudeau event

A Nova Scotia Community College student wants an apology and an explanation after he said he was asked to leave a trade skills competition that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended last week.

Dayton Goree, 54, is a second-year carpentry student at NSCC's Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth where the event was held. He said an RCMP officer working security for the prime minister came up and whispered to him that he needed to leave or he would be removed.

"I was humiliated because there were a lot of people who were looking at what was going on," said Goree. 

"I was being harassed and I honestly believe it was because I was black."

No explanation for removal

None of the other students was asked to leave, Goree said.

​"[The officer] said, 'If you don't leave, I will remove you.' And I asked him, 'Why do I have to leave?' And he came back and said, 'Only students, faculty and guests are allowed to be here,'" he said.

Goree said the RCMP officer never gave him the opportunity to explain he was a student.

"I would be talking to his back because he would walk away, right? And then he would return and say something," Goree said.

RCMP deny asking anyone to leave

The RCMP, however, deny anyone was asked to leave the event.

"Members of the prime minister's protection detail routinely engage participants during gatherings at public venues," Brigitte Mineault, an RCMP spokesperson, said in an email to CBC News.

She added that members "did engage with various participants at a recent event at the Nova Scotia Community College Waterfront Campus, however we can confirm that at no time did any members of the RCMP ask anyone to leave the event."

Allison Devereaux, a CBC News reporter who was covering the event, said while Trudeau was speaking, a noise caused audience members to turn around. She saw a man in orange construction gear walking through the crowd toward an outdoor area, followed closely by a man who appeared to be with security.

She said she heard the man in orange shout that he was being followed because he was the only black person there.

'I was just sitting there'

Goree said after he was approached by the RCMP, the same officer brought over two NSCC security guards to tell Goree to leave. Those two NSCC guards, Goree said, didn't appear to be part of the school's usual security team.

"I wasn't being unruly, I wasn't misbehaving, I wasn't acting in a threatening manner. I was just sitting there. I asked him at least twice, because I wanted to give him an opportunity to help me understand what it is I'm doing that has him targeting me as a threat."

The entire interaction took about two minutes, Goree said. He said the security team should have realized he was a student because he was in the room with other students and an instructor well before Trudeau showed up.

No other students asked to leave

"There was a RCMP officer stationed at that door. We were sitting, we were talking, we were laughing and joking amongst ourselves about how, you know, [it was a] CIA, Secret Service kind of mode they were in," Goree said.

"This one particular RCMP officer, the one who I had the incident with, he seemed to be the roamer. And we kind of figured he was in charge. We were talking about how serious he was about checking everything."

Before he left the area, Goree said he went to the other end of the room to get his backpack. When he left, he said the officer followed him out of the room. When he asked why he was being followed, the guard never gave him an explanation.

'I would like an explanation'

Goree said he has two weeks left in the carpentry program before his work placement. While his experience at the campus had been great up to this point, he said the experience left a bad taste in his mouth.

"I would like an explanation. Tell me why would you target me out of the 100 or 150 people that were in there out of all the ones who weren't students and all the ones who weren't faculty, why did you target me?

"If it's not because I was black, then give me an explanation.… I'm a student there. I was there legitimately. I was there helping out and they all saw that. So I don't know what his problem is. Well I do know what his problem is — he's a racist."

NSCC following up

Goree said he is concerned NSCC is not taking responsibility for how the security officers they employed at the event treated him. 

He said he filed a complaint with the college, which directed him to an African-Canadian counsellor at the school who specializes in supporting black students.

Kathleen Cameron, external relations manager with NSCC, confirmed the school received a complaint from a student regarding the event. She said she couldn't speak to whether any student was asked to leave the event.

"There was instruction by security as to where you should be when the prime minister is passing. That's all I know. But, that's just because I heard it and was on site. But [RCMP] would have to speak to the nature of the security, "Cameron said. 

Goree said he also contacted the Prime Minister's Office but hadn't heard a response as of Monday afternoon.

The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the incident, referring CBC News to the RCMP.