Ottawa

Students hope U of O learns from carding incident

Some students say the University of Ottawa is taking the right steps to address racial profiling on campus, but concerns linger that administrators could be doing more.

University implements review of policies after last week's incident

The University of Ottawa has announced several policy changes after student Jamal Boyce said he'd been handcuffed by security officers when he couldn't produce identification. (CBC)

Some students say the University of Ottawa is taking the right steps to address racial profiling on campus, but concerns linger that administrators could be doing more.

Earlier this month, Jamal Boyce was skateboarding on campus when he was approached by security officers.

Boyce, who is black, said the officers asked him for ID then handcuffed him when he wasn't able to produce it, since he didn't have his wallet.

Following the incident, Boyce alleged racism, racial profiling and harassment.

Last week, the university announced several policy changes, including updating and improving cultural sensitivity training for security officers and creating a committee to advise administrators on issues of racism, diversity and inclusion.

ID policy under review

"The silver lining in all of it is that it has opened up this conversation, and that more and more students have been comfortable speaking out about these stories," said Tiyana Maharaj, co-founder of the University of Ottawa Student's Union.

As part of its review, the University of Ottawa said it would also re-examine its policy on identification requests.

One section of that policy states that "protection services" members are "authorized to request proof of identity from persons on campus."

Maharaj said while she was angry and disappointed when she heard about the incident involving Boyce and the security officer, she wasn't shocked.

It's time that they stop talking about us without us.- Tiyana Maharaj, addressing needing diversity on advisory committee

"Students don't feel safe on this campus," she said, adding that the policy's language, as it currently exists, gives security officers leeway to interpret it however they want.

She said she's happy that section of the policy is now under review, but also feels the University of Ottawa needs to hire more security officers from diverse backgrounds.

"Very rarely do we see protection officers of colour," she said, adding she'd never encountered a security officer who was also a visible minority in the four years she'd been a student.

First-year student Hallie Robinson says the university needs to create a better community for the diverse student population it attracts. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Naveen Singh often skateboards on campus and said he's never had a problem with "blatant racism," but also wasn't surprised it happened to a fellow student.

Singh said he feels the university's administration isn't conducting the review because they know there's a problem, but rather because it was portrayed in a negative light.

"I don't personally see that they thought they did it for us, no," he said. "I don't really feel like they're doing us any favours."

Diversity needed on committee, students say

"I hope that the university can grow from this and ... use this as an opportunity to say, 'Hey, we have a real problem here,'" added Hallie Robinson, a first-year student.

All three students agreed there was a need to include diversity on the new advisory committee and to have student voices represented.

"Without people of colour working on this team and working with them, I think that there is going to be a lack of experiences and voices that are vital to strengthening this program," said Maharaj.

"It's time that they stop talking about us without us."

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