U of O's response to carding not enough, students say

Student groups at the University of Ottawa say their school's response to instances of carding on campus do not go far enough to combat racism. 

University's response 'fails to address systemic racism in a meaningful way'

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)

Student groups at the University of Ottawa say their school's response to carding on campus does not go far enough to combat systemic racism. 

The University of Ottawa Student Union, the Black Student Leaders Association and more than a dozen other student groups published an open letter Monday demanding the university provide greater transparency around its anti-racism work, and calling for more collaboration with students in tackling racism.

"A lot of the measures that were introduced by the University of Ottawa ... didn't include consultation from folks who wanted to contribute to that conversation ... [and] also proved to be inadequate as there was a second carding incident that took place not too long after," said signatory Jason Seguya.

More consultation on anti-racism policies needed at University of Ottawa, groups say

4 years ago
Duration 0:56
Jason Seguya and Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce say they're asking the university to increase consultation with the community to create new policies to fight racism on campus. 

Race was a factor

Last week, the university released its official report examining a carding incident that took place in June involving student Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce.

Koulmiye-Boyce was skateboarding on campus when he was stopped by security staff who asked for his identification. When he couldn't produce it they followed him and eventually arrested him. An independent investigator hired by the university found race played a role in the incident.

Koulmiye-Boyce said he's relieved his experience with racism was validated by the investigator's findings, but the university needs to address all the demands expressed in Monday's open letter if it wants to create a safe space for racialized students.

Black Student Leaders Association member Rochelle Smith, left, and student life commissioner Jason Seguya, right, announce their demands on the steps of Tabaret Hall at the University of Ottawa on Tuesday. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

"[The demands] really work in tandem and they're interconnected," Koulmiye-Boyce said. "One really builds on the other. You can't have consultation without proper accountability ... and you can't have proper accountability without proper consultation."

The university created a special committee to advise president Jacques Frémont on ways to combat racism and promote diversity, but Koulmiye-Boyce said more members of the community should be on board.

"The university must really work with the community to make these calls and also be completely transparent in how they're coming to conclusions they've drawn," he said.

Data collection key

In September, U of O student Wiliston Mason was carded by a security guard who demanded to see his identification as he entered his university residence where he lives and works as a community adviser. 

Mason said even though the university implemented a new security policy, it doesn't fully protect students from being targeted by security officials.

"[The new security policy] is not sufficient as we can clearly see from the incident that took place with me on Sept. 14, just two weeks after that policy came out," he said.

Mason said it's critical for the University of Ottawa to track instances of racism on campus if it wants to understand the scope of the problem.

"If we don't have the data — if we don't have some evidence to show that this is happening — we aren't necessarily taken seriously and that shouldn't be the case," he said.

Rochelle Smith, who also signed the open letter, said the university needs to document instances of anti-black racism if it wants to have a clear understanding of how to properly tackle the issue.

"[Black students] experiences aren't validated unless there's data to back that up or unless it's confirmed by an investigation. So, it's just important that we have that data to collect to see who's being targeted on campus," she said.

The open letter also called for all faculty and staff to take anti-racism training.

2nd report coming in November

In a emailed statement to CBC, the university said it received the letter and welcomes "student engagement on this very important issue."

The university said Frémont "met last week with representatives of the student union ... to discuss best ways forward and an open dialogue has been established between the university and student groups."

The university said the "investigator is now working on the second part of her mandate. She has been asked to review the Protection Services policies and procedures and their application more broadly and report on their impacts on racialized community members."

That report is expected to be completed in November and will be made public.

With files Ryan Tumilty