AMS survey alleges disproportionate targeting of students of colour by police

‘It should really be about prioritizing student safety'

Social Issues Commissioner to bring data to police board and city council.
Journal File Photo

In response to Queen’s $350,000 payment to the City of Kingston ahead of Homecoming celebrations in October and the subsequent petition against over-policing propelled by the AMS, the Social Issues Commission (SIC) is asking students to share their experiences with Kingston Police in an anonymous form.

In an interview with The Journal, Samara Lijiam, AMS Commissioner of Social Issues, said after collecting a sufficient amount of data, the AMS will bring the survey results to Kingston City Council and the Police Board.

“[Over-policing] has been a concern raised by students early in the summer,” Lijiam said.

“We [the AMS] were incredibly disappointed to see $350,000 going to the police from student money because we know that this is an issue that has been vocalized to [the University] before.”

According to Principal Patrick Deane, the $350,000 contribution was given to the City and city agencies to compensate extra costs taken from enforcing COVID-19 restrictions in the University District.

While the City is still deciding where to allocate the rest of the $350,000 payment, the AMS is advocating for the donation to be allocated towards “harm reduction measures,” according to Lijiam.

“I think there are other solutions that are possible, like a lot of harm reduction measures […] having food trucks and water tents available, first aid, [Queen’s] Walkhome, and other sort of focus on safety instead of security,” Lijiam said.

“It should really be about prioritizing student safety.”

According to Lijiam, many students reached out to share their experiences with the police after the AMS petition was released. Lijiam feels the issue clearly extends beyond the Homecoming weekends.

“I think even before this, students were getting assaulted by the police or being mistreated by the police. It just isn’t new and isn’t exclusive to [Homecoming],” she explained.

Lijiam said the SIC will be collecting accounts of experiences with policing as well as identity-based information through the survey.

“We’re asking people what their experiences are, where they were, and how they went. We’re also asking them what their race and sexual orientation [are],” she said.

According to Lijiam, since launching the survey, the SIC feels there’s a disproportionate impact on racialized students by police.

“To be honest, the people that have been reaching out to us—they are saying that most of the people they know that were detained [over the Homecoming weekends] were people of color,” Lijiam said.

With more survey responses coming in and over 1,500 signatures on the AMS petition so far, Lijiam is hopeful for a change to how Queen’s approaches policing.

“Not a lot of other students maybe thought about as much on the over-policing of students, but it’s definitely been a consistent issue for marginalized students,” she said.

“I’m hoping that in this advocacy, we can discourage future police presence like this and also deter the $350,000 from going to the police.”

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