On background checks

Amanda Watkins
January 28, 2016
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

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Not too long ago, McMaster made a new hire.

The university was in need of a new director of Parking and Security Services and looked to the community for an option. The person who was eventually hired was Glenn De Caire, the former Chief of Police for the Hamilton Police Service. Looking at title alone, De Caire sounds more than qualified to fill a security-related role at the university, but looking deeper into his background, one surprising detail sticks out.

Under De Caire’s leadership at the Hamilton Police Service, the organization began, and actively chose to continue, the controversial practice of carding. For those unfamiliar, carding is, in general, the checking of someone’s identity card to confirm an identity, age or address. But in the context of Hamilton Police, and many other police services alike, carding refers to the practice of arbitrarily checking the personal identification details of random citizens, often used as a tool of racial profiling, predominantly seen among black men. Carding is currently being challenged as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and was declared to be “wrong and illegal” by the Ontario ombudsman in a 2015 report.

According to a CBC Hamilton article, De Caire pushed Hamilton Police to continue carding as he claimed Hamilton would be “less safe, and crimes [would] go unsolved” if carding were abolished as a practice. In other words, he felt that profiling black men would help stop crime, as he perceived them to be the primary culprits.

When someone with a background like this is hired at a university with a diverse student body, I can’t help but wonder, how?

De Caire’s hiring involved a board of current university staff from different departments. It even included a representative from the MSU, our current student body president, Ehima Osazuwa.

At what point did this detail about De Caire’s career come up? Did it ever come up? How are the hiring practices at McMaster created without factoring in potential human rights violations at previous places of employment?

McMaster does a perfectly adequate job at hiring competent people. Our university runs smoothly for a reason, and that is in part due to the strong hires running across the faculty and staff. But a stain like this on an otherwise mostly clean record of hires makes it even more alarming.

This year’s Diversity Week emphasized the theme of “Constructing Our Stories.” Its goal was to help the McMaster community better understand the importance of being able to share your narrative and have people accept your story as an intersectional truth. A hire like this runs contrary to the messages of inclusivity and diversity that McMaster pushes. How will racialized students who have been profiled be able to openly tell their story knowing that the security enforcement will not believe them?

During these last few weeks, students and staff have seen firsthand how critical it is to have a space where we all feel safe and can tell our stories without being silenced. A hire like this is a step backward on a campus that is trying to move forward.

Photo Credit: Barry Gray/Hamilton Spectator

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