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The University expressed its regrets to Wiliston Mason in the letter. Photo: Matt Gergyek/Fulcrum

University pledges to train security guards better

The security guard who carded Black University of Ottawa student Wiliston Mason in September 2019 will no longer be permitted on campus in a security role, according to a letter obtained by the Fulcrum. The letter issued by the U of O’s vice-president of Finances and Administration, Robert Bourgeois, did not specify in what other capacities the security guard will be permitted to return to campus – as an employee or citizen.

The letter takes into account the findings of the independent report by Dana J. Campbell of Rubin Thomlinson LLP, commissioned by the U of O’s Human Rights Office, regarding the September 2019 carding incident.

“It was noted that Ms.Campbell found that the Respondent (the security guard) discriminated against you (Wiliston Mason) on the basis of race during the interaction of September 14, 2019,” wrote Bourgeois. “In light of these findings, I can confirm that the Respondent will not return to the University of Ottawa campus as a security guard.”

The security guard was originally banned entirely from the U of O campus following the carding incident, but will now be allowed back on campus in all capacities but as a security guard. For Mason, this is maddening. 

“It makes me feel as though the University is taking this matter even less seriously than when the allegations were first brought up,” wrote Mason in an email to the Fulcrum. “I don’t see how an interim measure can be more severe than the final decision, after an external investigator’s report clearly confirmed that this security guard carded me due to the fact that I was a Black man entering my residence building.”

Mason explained that though upset, he was not surprised by this decision after seeing that the security guards who carded, handcuffed, and left Jamal Boyce to sit on the sidewalk of the busiest street on campus in June 2019 are still employed by the University of Ottawa.

No apologies 

In the letter, the University of Ottawa expressed regret that the carding incident took place, but failed to offer a formal apology to Mason.

“Please accept our expression of regret for the interaction that took place on September 14, 2019 and we thank you for bringing it to the University of Ottawa’s attention in order for us to take appropriate action to ensure that it does not happen again,” wrote Bourgeois.

“I’m disappointed, but quite frankly, I’m not one bit surprised,” wrote Mason.“To me, it exposes the University’s hypocrisy and performative allyship. All of their statements about them standing with the black community, and taking a stance against racial injustice is directly contradicted by the fact that they refuse to offer an apology, both publicly and privately. The University hasn’t even acknowledged the fact that the external investigator confirmed all of the allegations I made about racial profiling, at the hands of an individual they contracted to ensure safety on campus.”

“One question I have for the University is, why would you not apologize when one of your contracted employees has been found guilty of racial profiling? How does the stance of refusing to apologize align with the commitment to “pursuing this just cause with humility, compassion, and determination?” Does the University stand by its commitment, or is it meant to be an empty promise given the University community a false sense of hope and trust in the institution?”

When contacted by the Fulcrum, the University of Ottawa indicated that it had no further information to add to what was written in the letter sent to Mason and did not give a reason as to why it neglected to explicitly apologize to Mason.

Security Guards to be trained on the U of O’s Standard Operating Procedures

In the letter, the University pledged to Mason that its security guards will now be aware of and understand the U of O’s Standard Operating Procedures.

“I can also advise that the University of Ottawa will be ensuring that security guards hired for our residences are aware of, and understand, our Standard Operating Procedures in place for our residences in order to prevent future incidents as occurred on September 14, 2019,” wrote Bourgeois.

For Mason, it is “more than concerning” that the University is only now promising to train its security guards on the Standard Operating Procedures – the basic set of rules that dictate their duties.

“I think that it is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable that an institution, with all its resources, can allow agents responsible for safety on campus to be at their post without knowing what their duties entail, nor the limits of their power and authority,” wrote Mason. “It’s no wonder we see incidents of carding and racial profiling on campus. The University has clearly failed to do its due diligence of training its security guards, as is evident in this case, as well as the cases of Jamal Boyce and Ali Mubiru amongst others.”