Our news article, “Potentially Dangerous Men on Academy Hill” describes the recent situation of how strange men on Academy Hill were trying to coerce female students into their vehicles. It is therefore important for students to be aware of safety resources that they can use in case of emergency or if they feel unsafe. This article will focus on campus security’s UBC Safe app for on-campus supports and the RCMP for off-campus supports. I will evaluate them in terms of their safety resources, their realms of operation, where they are available, and where they may also fall short.
Campus Security’s UBC Safe app and Safewalk
UBC Safe is an app for UBCO students run by Campus Security. Its purpose is to provide students with an easily accessible way to navigate around campus safely at all times. The app includes the following features:
- Incident reporting
- Support resources
- First Aid
- Access to emergency contacts
- Detailed emergency procedures and protocols
- Campus map
- Safety toolbox
- Student housing services
In researching this app and Safewalk, I was contacted by Christopher Lebans, a campus security manager in the area of communications and patrol. He recommended that all students download this app and use the services available for their safety.
Safewalk is a major service provided by campus security that encourages students to call them if they feel unsafe travelling on campus, or if they are unable to access different places on their own. On their website, they outline 4 services that they provide:
- Drop in visits: Campus security can come to where you are to check in at regular intervals of your choosing. Students may wish to use this service if they are alone in different places around campus. The website uses the example of a person being alone in a lab.
- Safewalks: From 6 pm onwards, co-ed pairs of volunteer students from the UBC Emergency First Response Team (EFRT) can walk students to anywhere they need to go on campus. The ERFT is another service that provides medical and advanced first aid 24/7 on campus. They can be reached by calling the campus security emergency line at 250-807-8111 .
- Scheduled and regular walks: You can register online to set up scheduled walks from different parts of campus. The examples they give are from regular trips to the bus stop or after work shifts on campus.
- Spur-of-the-moment walks: Students can call out to evening campus patrollers to walk with them around campus.
The number to contact Safewalk is 250-807-8076. This number can also be found within most course syllabi. Though this Safewalk is found in most of our course outlines, many people do not know about this service, its different areas of operation, or its options for use.
Through our social media, @ubcophoenix, we asked UBCO students about their experiences with Safewalk and there were students who have cited positive experiences and noted that they felt safe when using it. The EFRT has also been effective and crucial to these positive experiences. Another positive aspect is the fact that persons who have a disability can potentially use this service if they have issues getting from place to place on campus. According to Lebans, campus security also works in coordination with the Disability Resource Centre and Health and Wellness in order to provide support and transportation for students who have temporary disabilities to get around campus via golf cart or security vehicles. Importantly, if the disabilities last for long periods of time, exceeding two weeks to a month, the student and the community may have to make alternative arrangements.
One critique, however, has been the fact that some of the members of campus security have come off as insensitive or prying into the student’s request for accompaniment. This has caused some students to feel embarrassed or ashamed about making requests because they find themselves having to repeatedly talk about or explain why they felt unsafe. An environment that causes doubt or shame about speaking out when people are uncomfortable or are made to feel unsafe is a very common complaint that many women have had when discussing gender-based violence, sexual violence, or abuse.
Though Safewalk, Campus Security, and the UBC Safe app are great resources that students should be encouraged to use, there also needs to be a look into how persons within those services should interact with users to foster a safe and validating environment. After speaking to a customer service agent in Campus Security, I was advised by Lebans that the training the officers usually undertake tend not to be gender-specific or situationally specific in terms of conflict resolution. Therefore, highly recommended best practices for security officers and personnel include not asking why persons are requesting the service. The only questions they should ask are the students’ names, where they are, and where they will be going. If students have complaints that they would like to raise with campus security, they are advised to contact them through the UBC Safe app or email them at email@example.com .
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
The RCMP is Canada’s main police force and can be reached through the emergency response number 1111 or the non-emergency response numbers for the following locations in Kelowna:
- RCMP 115 Rutland, McIntosh Road (250) 765-6355
- RCMP 1190 Richter Street (250) 762-3300
- RCMP 100-1450 K. L. O. Road (250) 470-0600
The RCMP can be called to report an emergency, non-emergency crimes, and has a crime reduction strategy that you can learn more about. Many people call the RCMP to feel safe off-campus and generally in communities across Canada. If you live off-campus, this is the service you need to call.
Despite the widespread reach of the RCMP and their potential to help, there are many critiques of police as an institution and the RCMP specifically--particularly by women, Indigenous, Black and People of Colour. The police have historically been agents of suppression and oppression for Indigenous, Black and People of Colour. Indigenous people have constantly been harmed by the RCMP, whether it be through starlight tours, their integral role in the residential school system, and frequent discrimination based on racial stereotypes that go unchecked in the RCMP within and outside of the organisation because fundamentally, the RCMP was founded on controlling and oppressing the “other.” This is why Indigenous protests are often met with brute force and mass arrests whilst defending their own land.
Mental health is also a challenge that the RCMP has failed to rise to and caused extreme harm. You may remember Mona Wang, the UBCO student who was supposed to receive a wellness check, instead being dragged through the hallway of her residence by Constable Lacy Browning. The video went viral amongst UBCO students and persons in B.C., which resulted in a lawsuit against the constable, an apology by the RCMP and numerous interviews asking Wang about her position. The Phoenix had the opportunity to interview Wang and share further details regarding her intense experiences and the lack of accountability within the Kelowna RCMP and Interior Health.
Some may simply chalk this instance up to a fundamental and harmful ignorance of mental health and safety protocols surrounding when someone is in distress, which is certainly a huge part of the problem. However, it is also important to understand the intersections of race, ethnicity, mental wellness, and gender in these circumstances. On May 27th 2020, 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet died during a wellness check by the RCMP because she fell from her apartment balcony. Her mother, Claudette Beals, alleged that the police were responsible for pushing her, and the RCMP states that Korchinski-Paquet fell on her own. This tragic situation happened and gained a lot of attention during the Black Lives Matter protests happening at the time in the U.S. and all over the world. Korchinski-Paquet’s death sparked conversations on police brutality by the RCMP to People of Colour, as she was of Indigenous and Black descent. It is impossible to discern the intent of the officers at that time, whether this unfortunate event was racially motivated or not, or even if the events were violent at all, but with the history of racism toward People of Colour in Canada, there is certainly a need for this conversation to be at the public forefront. Black people and other People of Colour in Canada have spoken out about anti-black racism within the organisation and in interactions with the RCMP for years.
Women and gendered minorities have alleged that the RCMP is misogynistic, racist, and homophobic within the operations of the organisation. Women in Kelowna have also spoken up about the lack of action by the RCMP in cases of sexual crimes and the issues related to if and when survivors are able to speak on the crimes committed against them. Queer communities have been denied justice because of anti-gay bias within the departments. Indigenous people who have spearheaded the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movement (MMIWG) have also complained about RCMP’s indifference to the alarming rates that Indigenous people suffer violence and go unaccounted for. People who intersect many or all of these different identities feel the brunt of it all. The cultures and operations of the RCMP have long been cited by women and gendered and sexual minorities to discourage reporting and cause long periods of time where justice is unserved.
When a crime is being committed, it is encouraged to call the RCMP because they are likely to be able to provide help as soon as possible. Especially if you live off-campus, they are the resource that has jurisdiction over where you reside. However, for persons who are not white, abled, straight, or male, there are additional barriers to effective and safe care that one would have to consider; a long history of abuse has made many different communities feel unsafe and underserved.