Mubiru is the third black student to be carded on campus in the last 14 months. Photo: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Student was carded in the privacy of his own vehicle

Ali Mubiru, a Black third-year student at the University of Ottawa, says he and his friend, who is a person of colour, were carded by Protection Services while waiting inside his parked car outside of the U of O’s 90U residence in April 2019.

According to Mubiru, a white Protection Services officer pulled up to the window of the car on his bicycle after hearing the two jokingly say “the force’’ as he cycled past their vehicle. 

The officer cycled back to where Mubiru was parked and asked him and his friend ‘’if there was a problem.’’ Mubiru says he answered, ‘’no there’s no problem, we were just making a joke.’’ The officer then proceeded to ask both Mubiru and his friend for their student identification cards. Although confused by the officer’s demand as to why they needed to present ID, both Mubiru and his friend complied.

The officer took both ID cards and reported their student numbers and names to the campus security office before asking both Mubiru and his friend “if they had ever been in trouble with Protection Services.” Both men replied no, they hadn’t.

At that point, Mubiru’s friends arrived at the car. Seeing the scene unfolding in front of her, Mubiru’s friend Showmia Chandru asked the officer why he needed to see their IDs.   

“He said something like ‘we’re here to serve and protect you guys’,” said Chandru of the incident. “ He was somebody trying to hold any kind of authority he had over a kid and trying to threaten them because he couldn’t take a joke that wasn’t even actively directed at them.”

“Me and Showmia asked him for what reason did he take our student IDs and then he doesn’t give a reason, he just made up a dumb excuse, he didn’t really give a reason as to why he took our IDs,” said Mubiru in a phone interview with the Fulcrum. “After he was done recording our student numbers and names he just gave us back our cards and left.”

Mubiru said that he was unable to remember the name of the officer and did not complain to the U of O’s Human Rights Office. Mubiru says that he was confused and didn’t understand the reason that the officer had to ask him for his student ID “out of nowhere”. 

“Maybe he maybe he felt a way with what I said but I obviously thought he had racist intentions because there was no purpose to ask for my student number,” said Mubiru to the Fulcrum. 

“It really only occurred to me later on that it was a racially charged type of occurrence,” said Chandru. “But, later on, I realized this would have never happened if it was some white guy, and definitely because Ali was the only one visible in the car as a dark-skinned student, I can definitely presume that this white officer had something to say.” 

The U of O did not respond to questions of whether they were aware of the incident, but replied with a statement.

“The U of O is committed to providing a learning and work environment free from harassment and discrimination and where everyone is treated respectfully,” Isabelle Mailloux-Pulkinghorn, the university’s media relations manager, wrote in an email to the Fulcrum. “Any member of the U of O community who believe they may have been victim of harassment or discrimination can contact the Human Rights Office.”

It’s unclear if the university was aware of or had any records that Mubiru and his friend had been carded by Protection Services. The Fulcrum reached out to U of O’s Protection Services but was referred back to Mailloux-Pulkinghorn’s statement by the service.

Mubiru’s experience from April 2019 is the third publicized carding incident involving a Black student to occur at the university in the last 14 months.

In June 2019, Black conflict studies and human rights student Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce was carded, handcuffed and detained by campus security for over two hours. An independent investigation later found the incident to be an act of racial discrimination.

After the incident, the U of O updated its policy surrounding proof of identification.

Then in September 2019, Black student Wiliston Mason, a community advisor in the U of O’s Annex residence, was carded by a Black security guard while entering his residence. An independent report commissioned by the U of O’s Human Rights Office found Mason was subject to racial discrimination.

Editor’s note (02/06/2020, 2:55 a.m.): The original version of this article miss quoted Ali Mubiru as saying “maybe he felt the weight of what I said” when, in reality, he said “maybe he felt a way with what I said”.