The University of Ottawa’s human rights office is looking into an incident Wednesday in which a black student who had been skateboarding said he was carded then handcuffed for two hours on a campus street.
Student Jamal Boyce posted about the encounter on social media Thursday, saying he was skateboarding on Wednesday when he was stopped by campus security staff, who asked him for identification.
He posted on Twitter that he told the guards he didn’t have his wallet on him, and that they followed him as he walked away and eventually grabbed and arrested him.
The exact circumstances leading up to the arrest are not captured on a 45-second video Boyce posted, which is pointed toward the ground.
I was forced to sit on thr busiest campus toad in handcuffs for 2 hours. This was humiliating and messed up experience. <a href=”https://twitter.com/uOttawa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@uOttawa</a> security used their authority to harrass and demean me. Is this how students will be continued to be treated on campus <a href=”https://twitter.com/uOttawa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@uOttawa</a>? <a href=”https://t.co/hpW74ZevTe”>pic.twitter.com/hpW74ZevTe</a>
Christopher Kelly-Bisson, a PhD candidate in political science who said he doesn’t know Boyce personally, told CBC News he was leaving campus when he saw a group of about 30 people outside the library.
“What I noticed was that there was a black man … being detained by the security. Very shortly after I arrived, the Ottawa Police Service arrived as well and they were taking a statement,” he said, adding it appeared that Boyce was being co-operative.
Some people in the crowd were asking why the man was being detained, he said.
Police later put Boyce in the back of a police vehicle for about 10 minutes, and then let him go. Kelly-Bisson said the crowd stuck around to make sure Boyce was OK.
Ottawa police said they were called by University of Ottawa security staff to assist in identifying a male who was under arrest under the Trespass to Property Act for engaging in a prohibited activity on private property, and for failing to identify himself.
The security staff wanted to educate him about the act and identify him and “didn’t want to pursue … charges,” police spokesperson Const. Amy Gagnon wrote in an email.
“OPS has no other involvement with this incident. The male was released unconditionally.”
Police said university security staff do have the authority to make arrests under the Trespass to Property Act and the Liquor Licence Act.
‘People doing tricks on campus all the time’
Kelly-Bisson said skateboarding is common on campus.
“I see people doing tricks on campus all the time. There are people of every race and age and student or not, because it’s a good campus to skateboard on,” he said.
“It really marked me as like, this is a targeted thing.… If they were going bust everyone who skateboards on campus, they would be pretty busy.”
He said he heard other racialized people in the crowd chatting about problems they’ve had with campus security.
“I’m a white man. I’ve never had any problems with security. A lot of the white people I know on campus have never had problems with security. So it was a real shock to me to find out. I mean, maybe not a shock, because I know that there is … systemic racism in our society. But it was a shock to me to hear that so many people are having such a problem with security on campus,” Kelly-Bisson said.
Review underway, university says
Jacques Frémont, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa, held a news conference Friday to discuss the incident and said “racism has no place on our campus.”
He said he asked the director of the university’s human rights office to conduct a review and make recommendations about what should be done in the short and long term to improve university policies and procedures.
The university has also asked for an external review and will also look at whether disciplinary measures are in order, he said, adding that none have been taken so far.
According to the university’s security policy, University of Ottawa grounds and buildings are private property and the university reserves the right to bar any person from that property.
Protection Services staff have been authorized to request proof of identity from people on campus since 1992, but the policy doesn’t specify whether people are required to provide ID.