The University of Ottawa should begin collecting race-based data on its student population, says an independent review sparked after a black student was arrested and handcuffed for skateboarding on university property last June.
The review also urges the university provide more training to its security officers and build on changes to the policy that governs safety and security on campus.
On June 12, uOttawa student Jamal Boyce shared a video on social media in which campus security was heard demanding he produce identification or leave campus. Boyce, who was turned over to Ottawa police but not charged, said the incident left him feeling humiliated and demeaned, and called the incident “blatant racism.”
The next day, the university’s president, Jacques Frémont, said he had asked the director of the university’s human rights office to review the situation and provide recommendations about what should be done immediately and over the long term.
The 34-page report released Tuesday was written by Esi Codjoe, an independent investigator with the Toronto workplace law firm Turnpenney Milne LLP. Her mandate was to examine issues that arose out of the June 12 incident.
The first report, released in October, found that racial discrimination and inadequate training were to blame. Fremont offered a public apology to Boyce at the time.
Codjoe made three recommendations in the report released Tuesday:
• Collecting race-based data would help to enhance knowledge about the campus community and the services that it requires.
Most existing incident reports do not contain any data regarding race. However, of the 480 names listed in incident reports, about half were names that are not traditionally western European, Codjoe noted. According to the 2016 census about 26 per cent of Ottawa’s population is racialized.
In one 2014 incident a “suspicious Black person” was reported in a university building by an employee who noted that the person did not look like a student. “The notion that someone does not look like the sort of person who belongs can be a proxy for discriminatory mindsets and can lead to discriminatory treatment such as racial profiling,” wrote Codjoe.
• The University should build on changes it has already made to Policy 33, which governs security and safeguarding on campus property. According to the policy, university grounds and buildings are private property and the university reserves the right to bar any person from that property.
An interim update adopted Aug. 30 authorized campus security to to request proof of identity from people on campus, but identification must never be requested randomly and arbitrarily, and this should not be routine practice.
Codjoe noted that campus security uses force — which may include holding, using a baton, restraining without handcuffs and using handcuffs — about 22 times a year on average, according to reports on 11,081 incidents filed over a five-year period
“While on first blush this number is small relative to the number of yearly incidents, it still raises questions, and could be evidence of a larger problem,” she wrote.
Campus security officers most often use force with dealing with trespassing issues and/or suspicious persons. The university’s polices and procedures have little guidance on what it means to engage in trespassing or what constitutes a suspicious person, wrote Codjoe. The term “suspicious person” is also vague and could be applied in a discriminatory fashion, said Codjoe.
• The university should provide ongoing training on topics related to marginalized communities for its protective service officers.
The use of force data raises the question of why force is used, given that most incident reports are about trespass to property issues, wrote Codjoe.
Part of the PSO training should be “an exploration of critical thinking about whether force is needed at all,” she said. Other mechanisms, such talking to the person or other forms of de-escalation, may be more appropriate.
Codjoe said the university “has begun some good work around ensuring that it consults with its communities and transforms its policies and procedures.”
In a statement, the university said Frémont accepted the conclusion of the report and committed the university to continuing efforts to address racism and discrimination.
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