• By: Dan Donovan

Carleton “Professors” cancel culture solution for Police is farcical

Anyone following articles about the serious and systemic problems with police misconduct due to lax police oversight in Canada recognize that we need to rethink the role of police in society.  Whether it means carrying out substantive reforms around police recruitment and training or making significant amendments to the law to hold police officers accountable for misconduct, no one denies that now is the time to make that happen. This is a serious issue that requires a thoughtful and constructive response based on facts and evidence.

So, it is mind numbing and coma inducing in the extreme to learn that some professors working in the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Carleton University (I’ve never heard of them and have been writing about police misconduct and oversight for well over a decade) have unilaterally decided that the best way to address these problems is to cut student internships with the RCMP, Ottawa City Police, the Correctional Service of Canada and the Ottawa Carleton-Detention Centre.  

How they arrived at such a conclusion is beyond nonsensical. Instead of focusing on the problems affecting policing and offering constructive and positive solutions, these criminology professors are taking punitive measures to prevent their students from gaining valuable experience by doing a placement with the Ottawa Police Service and the RCMP. Where is the logic for such an ill-advised and shortsighted decision?

The students are not responsible for the current crisis in policing in this country and it is ludicrous to punish them by denying them an opportunity to gain experience first-hand in their field of study.  A field placement not only helps students build character it always helps to educate them about the criminal justice system and how it operates. Equally important it helps students’ network with prospective employers who may hire them when they graduate. 

The two biggest challenge facing all universities in Canada today is the cancel culture narrative combined with the assault on free speech in favour of so called ‘better speech’ (which means if you don’t agree with what the professor says you are getting a low mark). The rocket scientist behind this is Nicolas Carrier, the “director of the institute” – a sociologist and someone who obviously feels competent putting out tripe without any evidence to back it. He can get away with that in the university bubble or when he controls the marks of students in his class, but not when he puts it out in the public sphere or when he suggests it is something that is the policy of Carleton University, a taxpayer funded entity, as is his salary.

He or ‘his institute’ is not able to explain exactly how the termination of the internship program with the Ottawa Police Service, the RCMP, the Correctional Service of Canada and the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre is going to help students, or end racism in any occupation, including policing. Did they survey students before making such a decision? 

Before embarking on a harebrained scheme to cancel the student internship program with these agencies did Carrier have enough common sense to consult with the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, or did he even check with the University President or Administration? Was any thought given to how this would impact on the image and reputation of Carleton University?  Are these professors so wrapped up in their own rhetorical fog that they cannot see how a decision like this would profoundly and negatively affect Carleton University and more importantly the students.

Sadly, Carrier and his colleagues have just reinforced the view that many people outside of the university have about professors — especially those in the ‘social sciences.’ In keeping with the ‘cancel culture mentality’ many of them preach, they somehow think it is a serious idea to cancel the opportunity for many of their students to work with these entities. Most of their students would have applied to criminology at Carleton with the hope of getting a degree that could lead them into a career in law enforcement or related area. By cutting ties with the agencies that could provide their students with a meaningful and productive learning experience, these professors have shot themselves in the foot. 

For some professors to think that the only effective response to the problems with policing and our prison system is to cut ties with them borders on the ridiculous. Instead of trying to work with these agencies to affect positive and constructive changes what they are doing is utilizing a punitive response towards the very agencies they believe are too punitive in their dealings with the pubic.

This ‘Institute’ has not contributed anything of relevance to the police and police misconduct and oversight issue — ever — as far as I can tell. In fact, one of the most respected national experts on these matters in Canada is another Carleton Professor, Darryl Davies. Davies’ op-eds and interviews on police oversight and misconduct have been published in numerous publications including the Globe and Mail, The Sun, the CBC, CTV, Global News and in Ottawa Life Magazine. He appeared as an expert witness at a precedent setting case involving the RCMP, in 2017. Davies completely disagrees with what Carrier and the “Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice” is saying. When questioned about this, he pointed out that he is a professor with the sociology and anthropology department. He then sent me a written statement: 

“I thought you should know I am not one of those professors and do not support canceling internships in response to the crisis we are facing in policing not just in this city but across the country. I believe that internships help students experience what it’s like to work in the criminal justice system. They offer important and valuable contact and networking experiences that will enhance and further careers in the future, when graduates look for employment in the criminal justice system. While I have been writing about policing issues for many years I do not believe that the best way to effect and reform police is by cutting contacts with the very agencies that are going to be the future employers of our students. Reform can only come through dialogue and by educating the public, politicians, and the police about what needs to change in policing in the 21st century. Ending internships is a punitive measure that will do nothing to change policing practices, policies or the law and the only thing it will do is punish the very students that we are committed to teaching and educating about the criminal justice system.”

Carrier and his Institute should have done some source work and consulted with Davies first given his national reputation and the fact that he has spent over three decades working in the criminal justice system. It’s obvious that the decision to end the internship program is based on some very naive beliefs about what you need to do to bring about change in society. Walking away from a problem is not how you resolve that problem and it is sad to think that some deeply insulated university professors who have such a limited understanding of the real world are shuttering an internship program at Carleton University that has benefited thousands of university students in the past.

Exactly how do they think stopping their student placements at the Ottawa Police Service or the RCMP will stop racism in policing or any segment of our society?

‘Professor’ Carrier and his Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s cancel culture solution for police is beyond stupid, harms students, and dumbs down the serious issues regarding police misconduct and police oversight in Canada. Worse, it makes Carleton University seem like it is not a serious academic school of higher learning.