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De Caire doesn't get entirely warm welcome on day 1 of new McMaster job

Glenn De Caire was Hamilton's police chief until Sunday. Monday, he started as the head of security and parking. His welcome wasn't entirely warm.

'De Caire has been a very controversial figure in the city of Hamilton': student rally organizer

Kayonne Christy, a McMaster student, spoke Monday at a rally to protest the hiring of Glenn De Caire as director of security and parking for the campus. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

On Monday, Glenn De Caire started a new job at McMaster University, heading up the on-campus security and parking services.

Besides coinciding with a snowstorm, his arrival on campus got a frosty reception from some.

De Caire, who was Hamilton's police chief until Sunday, will spend his first few weeks on the job meeting with faculty, students and staff to help him transition "into this new and distinctly different role," said Gord Arbeau, director of public relations at McMaster.

Meanwhile, about 20 students and others gathered outside De Caire's new office on Monday afternoon to protest his hiring, which he announced abruptly in December.

"McMaster is a university committed to diversity, and is attended by students from various backgrounds," said Kayonne Christy, who spoke at the rally on behalf of a group called the McMaster Womanists.

"We demand answers as to why the university would hire a man who supports racial profiling, and why there was no consultation process with the students to influence the hiring decision," she said.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission once criticized former chief De Caire's support of carding and street checks, saying an example he used was "textbook" racial profiling. De Caire has repeatedly said in public remarks, and in a letter responding to the OHRC, that police should not activate any policing activity based on race.

Some students, such as Alex Lepine, one of the organizers of Monday's rally, fear De Caire will implement practices like street checks on campus.

"De Caire has been a very controversial figure in the city of Hamilton," Lepine said. "Unfortunately he seems to think that he can slip quietly away into McMaster."

Lepine said there will be a discussion next Wednesday as the so-called "De Caire Off Campus!" campaign continues.

'People are welcome and free to share their opinions'

About 20 students and others gathered Monday outside the McMaster Security and Parking Services building to protest the hiring of former police chief Glenn De Caire. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
Arbeau said the university administration was aware of the planned rally.

"McMaster is a campus where people are welcome and free to share their opinions," Arbeau said. "When participating in these discussions, it is everyone's responsibility to ensure a respectful and inclusive dialogue."

A CBC News request to speak with De Caire on his first day was not returned.

Asked what considerations were given to racial tensions surrounding De Caire's police chief tenure, Arbeau said that "every member of the McMaster community is responsible for supporting and respecting the university's commitment to diversity and inclusivity while ensuring a welcoming environment."

"That's the expectation for faculty, staff, students and visitors and is part of the culture at McMaster," he said.

'It's not a campus that's right in the middle of the city'

Kermeisha Williams and Kayonne Christy were two organizers of a Dec. 2014 march called "Black, Brown, Red Lives Matter" and called again in September for an end to carding. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
Christy, a McMaster student, has history with the former chief.

In December 2014, she was one of the organizers of a march called "Black, Brown, Red Lives Matter" that called for an end to police carding and street checks outside the Hamilton Police central division. As chief, De Caire strongly endorsed the practice, saying police needed the freedom to stop, talk with and document people who may not have done anything wrong as a proactive policing measure.

Anti-racism and privacy advocates have criticized carding as a violation of civil rights. Police statistics show that it has a disproportionate impact on visible minorities.

Christy also appeared at a forum at city hall in September, lamenting the fact that the chief had told organizers that the service did not collect information that would allow them to see how the carding practice affected visible minorities, only to release similar information a couple of months later.

"Glenn De Caire was dishonest and not transparent about the conduct of his police force during his tenure," Christy said.

'Not the top dog, but one senior administrator among many'

Chief Glenn De Caire, right, resigned abruptly from the Hamilton Police Service in December. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Peter Graefe, a political scientist at McMaster, said he's interested to see how De Caire responds to being in a new role in a different environment. 

"McMaster has not been a place where security has been a particularly large issue," he said. "It's not a campus that's right in the middle of the city."​

At police services board meetings, especially around the carding issue, De Caire "was not that keen on having an open and collegial discussion," Graefe said.

"His response was 'Thanks for your opinion; I'm not changing my practice,'" Graefe said.

"The question is, is he able to work in a less hierarchical situation? One where he's not the top dog, but one senior administrator among many?"

McMaster had to have known the hiring of De Caire would displease some students, Graefe said.

"One of the things that was so surprising to me was that the administration was willing to court predictable student unhappiness," he said. "Either that or they were completely tone deaf on what was happening in the community last fall."

Hamilton Police Deputy Chief Eric Girt has been filling in as acting chief for the last two weeks while De Caire took paid vacation leave. The police services board is expected to decide on an interim chief pending a new search and hiring process at its meeting on Thursday.

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