Some University of Ottawa students say the administration's response to allegations of systemic racism and racial profiling doesn't go far enough.
On June 12, third-year conflict studies and human rights student Jamal Boyce was skateboarding on campus when he was stopped by campus security guards, who asked him for identification.
After Boyce told them he didn't have ID on him and walked away, the guards followed and eventually grabbed and arrested him. Boyce said he was handcuffed on a busy campus street for two hours until he was eventually released by Ottawa police, whom campus security had called for assistance.
In the days and weeks following the incident, the university has announced it's taking the following steps to address allegations of racial profiling and systemic racism on campus:
- Asking the director of the university's human rights office to conduct an internal review and make recommendations.
- Updating and improving cultural sensitivity training for security officers on campus.
- Reviewing the policy for demanding proof of identity on campus.
- Improving the complaints process regarding on-campus incidents.
- Creating a committee to advise administrators on issues of racism, diversity and inclusion.
End carding policy, group urges
That's not enough for the university's chapter of the Black Law Students' Association (BLSA), which released an open letter Monday addressed to university president Jacques Fremont, calling for a stronger response.
"Persons employed to provide security on campus must have adequate training to recognize that it is not appropriate to detain an individual in handcuffs for two hours for skateboarding without ID," the letter reads.
The BLSA chapter's co-president, Nicole Tumaine, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday that one of the actions the BLSA wants taken is revoking the section of the university's campus security policy that authorizes security guards to request proof of ID on campus.
"The University of Ottawa is supposed to be an open and welcoming community that's open to the public, and some members of the public don't have ID, and that can be problematic when requesting it," she said.
Asked whether it would be OK in some circumstances, such as trying to identify a group of people harassing someone, Tumaine said yes, but that carding has sometimes disproportionately affected racialized communities.
"As long as it's done equally among all racial groups," she said.
The BLSA chapter is also calling for:
- The establishment of a working group consisting of students, faculty and a representative from the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers to review Policy 33, the campus security protocol, and recommend reforms.
- After the investigations, a public statement explaining what measures have been adopted to prevent similar incidents in the future.
- The development and implementation of measures to collect and analyze information about the experience of black students on campus, especially regarding interactions with security services.
Tumaine said she wasn't surprised by the incident involving Boyce, but added she's hopeful for change.
"From our own personal experiences on campus ... it's not that surprising. But at the same time ... I'm hopeful because I love my campus. I love our university. It's supposed to be a very community-oriented university, and I just want people to feel safe being on campus again," she said.