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Wiliston Mason in a second-year education student. Photo: Matt Gergyek/Fulcrum

Report alleges security guard breached U of O’s “Standard Operating Procedures for Security Guards in Residence”

An independent report commissioned by the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Office obtained by the Fulcrum has reports that a Black student was allegedly subject to racial discrimination when he was carded by a GardaWorld security guard at the entry of his residence last year.

On Sept. 14, 2019, Wiliston Mason alleges he was carded by a GardaWorld security guard when he was returning home to the Annex residence on Laurier Avenue at around 10 p.m.

“Having completed the investigation, I found that Mr. Mason was subject to racial discrimination” wrote Dana J.Campbell of Rubin Thomlinson LLP, the firm responsible for the U of O Human Rights Office’s report. “I found that Mr. Mason’s race was a factor, though potentially not the only factor, which led to him being stopped by (the security guard) as he tried to enter his residence.”

The alleged carding incident took place at the U of O’s new Annex residence on Sep. 14, 2019.
Photo: Parker Townes/Fulcrum

Mason said to the Fulcrum, and reiterated in the report, that he had tapped his key card to enter the building but the security officer behind the desk demanded identification “to verify that you live here.” Mason said that a white man had entered the building moments before him, without tapping his key card, and was not stopped.

Mason said he then explained to the GardaWorld security guard who is also black that he did not need to produce identification under the U of O’s updated carding policy and even pointed to his picture on the residence staff board on the wall, but that the officer persisted and allegedly grabbed for his suitcase.

“He started to push me and physically block me,” Mason said to the Fulcrum at the time. “I kept repeating myself, making it very clear that he did not have my permission, the right, or the authority to do what he was doing.”

Mason asked for the officer’s name and employee ID number, but he said the guard refused to give it to him. Mason said he finally called Protection Services who then let him into the building.

The report states that the interaction between Mason and the security guard on station at the U of O’s Annex residence that night allegedly breached the U of O’s “Standard Operating Procedures-Security Guards in Residence” (SOP) policy.

“That being said, while the conduct complained of did not amount to harassment, I found that it did amount to a breach of the SOP which required security guards to respect all staff and students,” stated Campbell in the report. “I found that (the security guard’s) conduct towards Mr. Mason was disrespectful.”

The SOP states that the duty of a security guard in residence is to “make sure that all persons entering the building have their key/fobs or are signed in on the guest registry…” but that “students involved in an incident should provide their identification so that their information can be reported to CA’s and Coordinators for follow up”.

The report alleges that “in this case, Mr. Mason merely entered the building. There was no ‘incident’ to warrant (the security guard) requesting his I.D. I do not consider (the security guard’s) failure to see Mr. Mason swiping his card to be an incident.” 

The investigator then stated in the report that “(the security guard’s) duty as it pertained to residence access was to “make sure that all persons entering the building have their key/fobs or are signed in on the guest registry.”

“Thus,” Campbell wrote, “(the security guard’s) authority in that situation was to ask Mr. Mason to swipe his access card; he did not have the authority to request his I.D.”

According to the report, “(the security guard) provided in his statement that he only requested that Mr. Mason swipe his access card.” The investigator said in the report that “but as noted above, I have found otherwise.” 

The report further reads that “the evidence received from Mr. Mason and Witness A (a student who witnessed the incident) is that (the security guard) asked Mr. Mason for his identification (they did not say student card).”

Mason also alleged Dairo of harassment but, according to the report, there was insufficient evidence to sustain the allegation.

“In relation to the allegation of harassment, I found that the evidence was not sufficient to meet the threshold for harassment,” wrote Campbell in the report.

The independent investigator collected the statements of six people who directly and indirectly witnessed the event, including students who were present during the altercation between the security guard and Mason as well as the Protection Service officers who were called to the residence building. The investigator also had access to security camera footage of the incident.

“Overall, the investigator did a good job at capturing the facts of what happened in terms of going down to probabilities, evaluating what was said and the different accounts that were given by the different witnesses,” Mason said in an interview with the Fulcrum.

Mason expressed frustration that the U of O and its administration was not named in the report as one of the groups involved in the incident, despite having subcontracted GardaWorld to provide security in its residences.

“I was disappointed that the investigation did not include any investigation in regards to the university’s part in all of it. When I did submit my complaint with the Human Rights Office, I did name the U of O as one of the respondents, but they decided to just focus on GardaWorld. Shouldn’t they all be (grouped) together?”

A request for comment from the lawyer representing the security guard and GardaWorld was met with a response from the company’s media relations team.

“As this case is already before the HRTO (Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario), we will not comment any further than that in our opinion the report is incomplete and reflects only one point of view,” wrote GardaWorld’s media relations team.

The U of O administration confirmed that it had received the report but refused to comment on its content, citing confidentiality concerns. 

“The university’s administration has received the confidential report submitted by an independent investigator,” wrote Isabelle Mailloux-Pulkinghorn, the university’s media relations manager, in an email to the Fulcrum.

“For reasons of confidentiality and privacy, we cannot speak to the specifics of this situation.”

Mailloux-Pulkinghorn then highlighted the efforts she says the U of O has taken to address racism on its campus.  

“Over the last year, the university took steps to address racism and discrimination on its campus,” wrote Mailloux-Pulkinghorn.

“A global approach to combat racism on campus was adopted, including public consultations with members of the U of O’s racialized communities and the establishment of the President’s Advisory Committee for a Racism-free Campus.”

“That committee is developing an ambitious action plan that outlines strategies and goals to eliminate racism on the U of O campus,” added Mailloux-Pulkinghorn.

Mason has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and is currently waiting to go through mitigation.

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