Ottawa

Race was a factor in uOttawa carding incident, report finds

A report commissioned by the University of Ottawa's human rights office has found that race played a role in a black student being stopped by security while entering his residence.

Security staff blocked Wiliston Mason from building where he worked, lived because he didn't have ID

Wiliston Mason, a community advisor and student at a University of Ottawa residence, said he had a confrontation with a security guard over carding Sept. 14, 2019. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

A report commissioned by the University of Ottawa's human rights office has found that race played a role in a black student being stopped by security while entering his residence.

Wiliston Mason said he was blocked from going into his building — where he also works as a community advisor — in September 2019 by a security guard who demanded to see his identification, even though he had swiped his keycard to enter the facility.

The report, prepared by lawyer Dana J. Campbell at Rubin Thomlinson, concluded that Mason "was subject to racial discrimination" and that his "race was a factor, though potentially not the only factor, which led to him being stopped by [the security guard] as he tried to enter his residence."

"[It] essentially corroborated the story that I've been telling since back in September," said Mason, a second-year student.

According to the report, the guard stationed at Mason's residence on Laurier Avenue East, was employed by Garda Canada Security Corporation, an independent contractor hired by the university to provide security at student residences. 

Mason said while he's satisfied with most of the report's findings, he's disappointed its scope was limited to the actions of the security guard.

"The university completely ignored the fact that I listed them as a respondent in my complaint," he said.

"[It] just shows that there's a large component missing in this investigation process."

Although Mason said the security guard grabbed him and his suitcase during the incident, the investigator wrote the altercation did not meet the threshold of harassment, although it did breach "the [Standard Operating Procedures] which required security guards to respect all staff and students."

The investigator also added that the "[security guard's] conduct towards Mr. Mason was disrespectful."

Mason said that although he had asked the university to preserve all the camera footage, the investigator only saw a portion of the interaction. 

University of Ottawa students Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce (left) and Wiliston Mason (right) say their university needs to do more to address anti-back racism on campus. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

"I understand where the investigator is coming from, especially given the camera angles that she was given to work with," he said. 

Mason said he's also filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to ensure the University of Ottawa takes the necessary steps to prevent carding from happening again.

"They are a legal, governing entity," said Mason.

"If they were to make a decision in my favour ... the university would be legally obligated to comply with that."

Mason said he wants the university to collect race-based data to track instances of racism on campus and for all security guards and protection service officers to receive proper training.

"Essentially any uniformed officer who comes onto the University of Ottawa campus should have the same level of training in order to prevent these instances from happening," he said.

University of Ottawa officials said that "for reasons of confidentiality and privacy [they] cannot speak to the specifics of this situation."

The statement added that the university has taken steps to address discrimination on campus. 

"A global approach to combat racism on campus was adopted, including public consultations with members of the uOttawa's racialized communities and the establishment of the President's Advisory Committee for a Racism-free Campus.

That committee is developing an ambitious action plan to outline strategies and goals to eliminate racism on the uOttawa campus," the statement said.

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