British Columbia

SFU to conduct review after Black alumnus pepper sprayed and Tasered during campus arrest

The president of Simon Fraser University says the school will conduct an external review after a Black alumnus was pepper sprayed and tasered Friday while being arrested on campus.

Arrest comes after 'countless conversations about de-escalation,' says student society president

Video excerpts of the arrest show an altercation between the man and an RCMP officer. (Giovanni HoSang/Twitter)

The president of Simon Fraser University says the school will conduct an external review after a Black alumnus was pepper sprayed and Tasered on Friday while being arrested on campus.

In an open statement Sunday, Joy Johnson said the incident is "raising important questions about our processes and protocols."

She said she acknowledges the incident is "distressing for many in our community, particularly for those who are Black, Indigenous or persons of colour."

The incident came to light Friday in a series of tweets posted by Osob Mohamed, president of the Simon Fraser Student Society.

Mohamed, who did not directly witness the arrest, said the former student was arrested while trying to buy food in the dining hall on campus. 

Mohamed wrote that the arrest came after "countless conversations about de-escalation and the dangers of police presence on campus."

She added: "SFU is a sick institution." 

Video excerpts of the arrest were posted on Twitter over the weekend. A security officer is seen addressing the man, ordering him to leave the building with his food or risk arrest. 

A separate excerpt shows a police officer grabbing the man and struggling to handcuff him, as the man and bystanders ask the officer to let the man go. 

CBC News has not spoken directly to witnesses. The man who was arrested declined to comment over the weekend.

Johnson noted the incident has "many layers" and that the school wouldn't be giving a public debrief on the events to protect the privacy of those involved. 

She said the school would reach out to Black faculty, staff and students for input for the review. Recommendations will be shared with the SFU community, Johnson said.

Arrest under review

Burnaby RCMP Supt. Graham de la Gorgendiere said the incident is being reviewed by the officer's supervisor.

RCMP say they were called by campus security at around 9 p.m. PST on Friday to help with a man who was refusing to leave a campus dining hall.

Campus security told RCMP the man was not a student and refused to leave, violating the school's safety rules during the pandemic. 

Access to buildings is only available to SFU community members who present school ID, according to SFU's website.

"Uniformed security guards will be present to check SFU ID and log access for safety purposes," the website reads.

According to an RCMP statement, a single officer approached the man, who was "circling and yelling at several campus security employees," and tried to de-escalate the situation.

"The police officer spent several minutes using crisis intervention and verbal-de-escalation techniques with repeated requests, asking the man to leave the premise," the statement said. 

RCMP say that when the man refused to comply, a police officer told the man he was under arrest for causing a disturbance. 

"While attempting to take the man into custody, the man took the officer by the arm and a physical altercation ensued and the officer deployed oleoresin capsicum spray (pepper spray)," the statement said.

Police allege the man put the officer into a chokehold, prompting the officer to Taser the man. 

The man was taken to hospital for what police say were minor injuries. He was then apprehended under the Mental Health Act.

RCMP are recommending charges of causing a disturbance and assaulting a peace officer.

Harsha Walia, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said Monday the group was outraged and concerned over the arrest. 

Walia said, based on accounts, the former student was "profiled and targeted, and disturbingly excessive force was used against him."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

A banner of upturned fists, with the words 'Being Black in Canada'.

With files from Adam van der Zwan and Bethany Lindsay