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No evidence of racial profiling in violent SFU Burnaby arrest: review

Simon Fraser Student Society calling on university to release full report on Dec. 11 incident
SFU arrest
An external review has concluded there was no evidence racial profiling contributed to a controversial, violent arrest of a Black alumnus at SFU's Burnaby Mountain campus in December.

An external review of a controversial, violent arrest of a Black alumnus at SFU’s Burnaby Mountain campus in December has been found lacking by the university’s student union.

A summary of the review, released last week, provided more information about events leading up to the Dec. 11 incident, which ended in the alumnus being pepper-sprayed and Tasered in the head by an RCMP officer in a campus cafeteria.

In a statement, SFU president Joy Johnson said the information hadn’t been released previously because of “safety and privacy concerns.”

The review, which doesn’t name the alumnus, concluded campus security had engaged the man after his interactions with a university member caused that university member “reasonable fear for their safety.”

The university member had requested a “safe walk” from campus security and told security “what had occurred with the alumnus.”

The review concluded campus security “could not permit the alumnus to remain on campus after being alerted to the safe walk request”

Security called police after the alumnus “became aggressive and refused to leave campus,” according to the review.”

The subsequent arrest of the man by a single RCMP officer was captured on videos circulated on the internet.

They unleashed a flood of criticism from people accusing SFU security and the RCMP of racial profiling.

But the review, conducted by Vancouver lawyer Andi MacKay, concluded there was no evidence racial profiling contributed to the events.

She also found no evidence SFU’s standard operating procedures, inconsistent application of those procedures, the university’s poorly worded policy about alumni access to campus during the pandemic; or a lack of training in de-escalation techniques contributed to the incident.

In a statement last week, however, the Simon Fraser Student Society said it was “deeply concerned by the lack of concrete findings and recommendations of this investigation.”

The society said the alumnus – who is also a former SFSS vice-president – had not been told the safe walk request was the reason he was being asked to leave campus.

“Rather, the sole basis that was communicated to the alumnus for their removal was on the basis of SFU’s COVID-19 campus access policies which were vague, conflicting, and not widely accessible,” the statement reads.

The society said there had also not been any reliable way to validate if a person was a current student or not.

That issue was addressed in one of MacKay’s recommendations.

She said the university should update its ID cards so they contain digital information.

The student society also said it was troubled by what it sees as the “overall failure” of the review to outline campus security policies and procedures as they were applied in the case.

As an example, the society said it couldn’t find a policy that stated safe walk requests result in automatic and immediate removal of people from campus.

Incidents like the Dec. 11 arrest are “not isolated,” according to the student society, and racial profiling and violent incidents will continue if SFU fails to deal with “inadequate policies, procedures and practices."

“SFU’s vague, inequitable, and inaccessible policies, always gives space for institutions to disproportionately target marginalized communities,” the society said.

The SFSS is calling on the university to release the full report on the Dec. 11 incident and to change policies that disproportionately impact racialized and other marginalized students with input led by those groups.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor