Combatting Racism on Campus
The University of Ottawa is a diverse community of approximately 50,000 people. It is in a very real sense a microcosm of Canada, with Canada’s strengths, and its weaknesses. Those strengths include a profound commitment to human rights and a national culture that is tolerant of difference and that celebrates diversity.
Allegations of racism, racial profiling and harassment arose as a result of an incident during the summer of 2019. A second incident involving a Black student in September further emphasized the urgent need for concrete actions to combat racism on campus.
In reaction to these allegations and their impact on our University community, University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont announced a wide-ranging approach to address racism and discrimination on campus.
In a statement released on June 10th, President Frémont provide an update on the measures implemented since the June 2019 incident and the achievements made as a community toward this goal. He also indicated that the work undertook this year represents an important beginning. One of the next steps in the very near future will be to announce increased mental health supports for members of our Black and racialized communities.
These reports were commissioned by the University and conducted by an independent investigator. Her mandate was twofold: first, to investigate both the specifics of the June incident and second, to review the University’s Protection Services policies and procedures and their application more broadly and to advise about their impacts on racialized community members.
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Interim Measures to combat racial discrimination
In addition to the investigator’s report, the President has also announced four interim measures to combat racial discrimination and to promote acceptance and inclusion on our campus and within our community. On September 4, President Frémont confirmed the implementation of several measures to address allegations of racism, racial profiling and harassment that arose as a result of the June incident involving a student and Protection Services officers. These measures were implemented and enacted during the summer with the aim of ensuring our campus is a safer and more inclusive and accepting place for all when the fall semester begins.
Review of Policy 33
The University thoroughly reviewed the interpretation and application of University Policy 33, Section 8, and Protection Services’ authority to request proof of identity from people on campus. Protection officers must now follow new directives that set out when and how they should and must request identification. The directives aim at striking a proper balance between due respect of individual rights and the officers’ duty to protect and ensure the safety and security on campus.
Strengthened intercultural training program for Protection Services
All Protection officers active on campus followed an unconscious bias training and participated in an equity, diversity and inclusion session, which included a discussion about social identity, visible and invisible differences, power, privilege and the intersectionality of these. The conclusion of the sessions focused on the importance of understanding equity, diversity and inclusion and how these are key values for a safer, more inclusive and respectful campus. The University believes such training will better equip its security personnel in their interactions with members of the uOttawa community and members of the public.
An updated complaint mechanism is now available for those who believe they have been unfairly treated by uOttawa’s Protection Services. This mechanism allows individuals to contact directly the Director of Protection Services to present their grievances. Members of the community are reminded that the University’s Human Rights Office may also receive complaints that concern questions of discrimination and harassment. And any person may also file a complaint with the Private Security and Investigative Services Branch within the Ministry of the Solicitor General, if they have reason to believe that a licensee has failed to comply with the Private Security and Investigative Services Act or its regulations.
President’s Interim Committee for a Discrimination-Free Campus
A President’s Committee for a Discrimination-Free Campus has been put in place to provide advice to the President on ways to combat racism and promote diversity, acceptance and inclusivity across the uOttawa campus and within the uOttawa community. The committee met during the summer and provided guidance on the implementation of these measures.
Specifically, the committee advised the President on how to:
- Cultivate a truly inclusive and tolerant campus culture by engaging with and educating the uOttawa community
- Hear directly from critical voices rooted in diverse communities and leading experts in anti-discrimination
- Remove systemic barriers facing racialized members of the uOttawa community
- Develop and implement an effective complaints mechanism for victims of discrimination on campus
Members of the committee were appointed on an interim basis due to the pressing need to act as a result of the June incident.
The President’s Interim Advisory Committee for a discrimination-free campus is composed of the following members:
- Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor
- Dane Bedward, CEO, Neurobot Inc. and Board Member
- Steffany Bennett, Special Advisor, Diversity and Inclusion
- Saada Hussen, Undergraduate Student Representative, Board of Governors
- Danielle Lussier-Meek, Advisor, Indigenous Relations & Indigenous Learner Advocate
- Vanessa MacDonnell, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section
- Tiyana Maharaj, Co-Founder, University of Ottawa Student Union
- Errol Mendes, Full Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section
- Yasir Naqvi, CEO, Institute for Canadian Citizenship
- Joanne St-Lewis, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section
- Jill Scott, Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs
- Nicole Tumaine, Co-President, Black Law Student Association of Canada, University of Ottawa Chapter