News

A report by human rights lawyer Esi Codjoe is still on the way. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik/Fulcrum

Follows carding and handcuffing of Black student by campus security in June

The University of Ottawa has announced the implementation of measures to combat racism and discrimination on campus, spurred by the carding and handcuffing of a Black student by campus security this summer that led to allegations of racism, racial profiling and harassment.

The measures include new limits on the authority of Protection Services when requesting proof of identity, an updated system for filing a complaint against campus security, and the completion of unconscious bias training among officers, all informed by a special advisory committee.

Jamal Boyce, a conflict studies and human rights student at the U of O and vice-president (academic and university affairs) of the program’s student association, was detained by campus security on June 12 for over two hours under the Trespass to Property Act. 

Jamal Boyce, conflict studies and human rights student at the U of O and vice-president (academic and university affairs) of the program’s student association. Photo: Facebook

Boyce recounted the incident in a series of Twitter posts on June 13, an experience he called “extremely humiliating” and “physical, mental, emotional violence.”

A number of groups on campus, including the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU), 16 student associations, and the Black, Indigenous and people of colour caucus of the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa, saw the incident as a microcosm of systemic racism on campus, specifically anti-Black racism, and called on the university to act. 

The measures, initially announced by U of O president Jacques Frémont on June 21, include the introduction of an interim directive for Section 8 of Policy 33, which authorizes security to request proof of identity from people on campus. 

Under this directive, “identification must never be requested randomly and arbitrarily and should not be Protection Services’ routine practice,” Frémont said in a news release on Wednesday, also sent out in an email sent to students. 

The directive adds security must explain their reason for requesting identity unless doing so would compromise a person’s safety or an ongoing investigation, or if doing so would violate a law. 

Security must also inform a person that they can choose not to produce identification unless a person’s safety may be compromised. Security officials are required to provide their direct contact information along with the contact information for Protection Services when responding to an incident.

All security officers on campus have completed unconscious bias training and took part in an equity, diversity and inclusion session, focusing on “how these are key values for a safer, more inclusive and respectful campus,” Frémont said in the news release.

Additionally, the university has updated its system for filing a complaint against campus security, allowing for direct contact with the director of Protection Services. Complainants are also given the option to contact the U of O’s Human Rights Office and the branch of the Ministry of the Solicitor General governing the Private Security and Investigative Services Act.

Frémont added the President’s Advisory Committee for a Discrimination-Free Campus provided input through the implementation process, made up of 12 interim members.

U of O president Jacques Frémont at a press conference in Tabaret Hall on June 14 following the carding and handcuffing of Black student Jamal Boyce. Photo: Iain Sellers/Fulcrum

They range from UOSU co-founder Tiyana Maharaj and co-president of the U of O chapter of the Black Law Student Association of Canada Nicole Tumaine to CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship Yasir Naqvi and law professor Vanessa MacDonnell. Frémont says permanent committee members will soon be announced. 

A report by former vice-chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario Esi Codjoe into the carding and handcuffing of Boyce is yet to be released. It was announced on June 18 and will be made public within the limits of the law. 

Codjoe is tasked with determining whether Policy 33 and the Trespass to Property Act were properly applied in Boyce’s case and in accordance with the law and human rights. She’s asked to answer whether the policies governing campus security are “void of negative systemic impacts on any of our community members who belong to historically disadvantaged groups and specifically racialized community members,” the news release reads.

Codjoe will then issue recommendations to “ensure that the campus fully respects the human rights of all members of the community and visitors to campus.”

“These four measures have been undertaken to ensure that discriminatory attitudes and behaviours that exist in society at large are proactively excluded from the (U of O) community,” Frémont said in his email to students. “I will have more to say about this in the coming weeks.”