U of O student faced carding confrontation despite new policy

Wiliston Mason says he doesn't understand why a security guard blocked his way and demanded his identification at his own University of Ottawa residence — the same place where he works as a community advisor.

University says private security guard is no longer allowed on campus

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)

Wiliston Mason says he was shocked that a security guard blocked his way and demanded his identification at his own University of Ottawa residence — the same place where he works as a community advisor.

The confrontation over carding came less than two weeks after the university changed its policy on carding.

Mason, 22, said he was returning to his building with a suitcase around 10 p.m. last Saturday and swiped his keycard.

"There was also another Caucasian gentleman who came in. He didn't tap his card. The security officer didn't say anything to the other guy, but to me he was asking to see my ID as if I'd done something wrong," Mason said.

Mason said he asked the guard, who he said was a black man, why he wanted to see his ID and said the updated University of Ottawa policy meant he didn't have to present identification.

Mason said his key pass was proof he should be able to access the building and he even pointed to a photo of himself on the wall, part of a collage that included student-staff community advisors, but the guard didn't stop.

"I'm really just wondering, why is this such a big issue for me to go to my room? I live here, the proof is right there on the wall behind him. He refused to acknowledge that," Mason said.

Wiliston Mason's photo appears in this photo collage with other student-staff of the residence. He said he tried to point his photo out to the security guard, but it was not acknowledged. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He said the guard grabbed his suitcase when he tried to get past him and continued to demand his ID — using his body weight to keep him from passing through the lobby to the elevators.

"He was harassing me. He was putting his hands on me. That is not something that should happen to any student on campus, no matter the colour of their skin," Mason said.

He said he turned to other students and asked them to confirm he lived in the building, which he said they did. 

Still, Mason said, he had to call the campus Protection Services, who eventually intervened and allowed him to proceed after they checked his key card was in order.

Mason said he has filed a complaint with the university president and the security company, as well as filing a report with police.

"I'm really concerned because I both live here and I work here," he said.

"How am I supposed to come here every single day and feel safe, knowing that there's a security guard who is clearly abusing their power?"

Guard banned from campus

In a statement, the University of Ottawa said the security guard worked for a private firm under contract with the university. 

The university says it contacted the company to notify them of the incident and make sure they comply with the university's policy for interacting with students, which were updated following an incident in June where a black student was handcuffed.

The university says the private security officer involved is no longer allowed to be on campus.

It says the school's Office of Human Rights is in contact with Mason. 

The University of Ottawa says its Office of Human Rights is looking at the alleged incident. It also contacted the private security company that the guard worked for and the guard involved in the incident is no longer allowed on campus. (Jean-Sebastien Marier/CBC)

The new policy says requests for identification "must never be requested randomly and arbitrarily" and can't be routine practice.

Ottawa police confirmed they were investigating a report of an assault on Sept. 14 around 10 p.m., but they would not provide further details.