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Asylum seeker charged with assault says he’s not violent



A Somali asylum seeker charged with assaulting a border guard in Emerson, Man., is pleading his case to stay in Canada.

“I hope they give me a chance to prove myself that I’ve changed,” 37-year-old Ahmed Aden Ali said Tuesday from his lawyer’s office in Winnipeg.

Ali, along with members of his family, had been living in Minneapolis as government-sponsored UNHCR convention refugees since 1999. Most of his family members are still in the U.S.

He had landed immigrant status but didn’t become a U.S. citizen — so he lost his status after being convicted of grand theft auto and other misdemeanours in 2010 and 2013.

Ali served his time but was then sent to immigration detention. He was eventually released on a deportation order.

After Donald Trump was elected president, and amidst a wave of immigration raids, Ali paid a driver $200 US for a ride to the border. He walked into Canada on April 8 and was picked up by RCMP.

“I was fearing getting deported. I was thinking, coming over here, I could start over,” Ali said.
However, Canada Border Services Agency officers determined Ali was not eligible to remain in Canada because of his criminal record.

They detained him and said he was going to be deported.

Ali admits he got mad at that point. He swore at the officers and deliberately set off the sprinkler system in the detention room, but insists he didn’t threaten or assault anyone.

“I cussed them out. I said some bad stuff to her but I did not threaten,” he said.

“How can I assault somebody? They had the door locked. I’m inside the cell, she’s outside. So you tell me, is there any way I can assault her?”

After the incident, the CBSA said an officer was assaulted by a traveller resisting arrest.

“The officer sustained minor injury but did not require further medication attention. Our officers have the training and tools to respond to these situations,” said a statement provided to CBC News.

Ali was charged with two counts of uttering threats, mischief over $5,000 and assaulting a peace officer.

He spent two weeks in Headingley Correctional Centre and the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Now out bail, on conditions including a curfew, he’s pleading for understanding.

Haunted by the past

Ali says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks from a violent incident in Somalia when he was 14. While Ali watched, a friend shot his own mother.

“I should’ve grabbed it [the gun], but I didn’t do it because I thought he was joking. But he did do it,” Ali said. “It really affected me.

“When you see too much death, some people, it’s like nothing to them. That’s what it was like over there in Somalia.”

Ali takes medication for stress and anxiety. He’s also trying to kick an alcohol addiction and deal with the after-effects of a brain aneurysm he suffered in 2013.

He’s on social assistance, living in a downtown Winnipeg shelter while he waits to apply for a work permit. He volunteers his time translating for other refugee claimants.

“I’m not what everybody said I am. They think that I’m violent. I’m not violent. I’m just trying to change my life to come here and be successful in life,” Ali said.
Ali’s criminal charges are winding through the justice system.

He has an admissibility hearing in June, which will determine if he’s eligible to make a refugee claim.

If he’s ordered deported, his lawyer says he’ll try to keep him here by proving it’s too dangerous to send him back to Somalia, or arguing he should be allowed to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

“I don’t believe the United States is a country he’s going to be able to be returned to,” David H. Davis said.

“So I say to Mr. Ali the ball is in his court, meaning if he demonstrates good civil obedience, stays out of trouble, he continues his volunteer efforts and then eventually he’s going to be eligible for a work permit. As long as he demonstrates he’s here to comply with the rules and play by our rules, he has the opportunity to legitimize his status and never have to face that removal order.”

‘Is it a deserved second chance?’

But another immigration lawyer says he’s worried about the precedent — and reaction — this case could generate.

“My background has always been giving people second chances but my question is, is it a deserved second chance?” asked Ken Zaifman.

“He’s got family in the United States. He was a permanent resident of the the United States. His place where he should’ve resolved whatever issues he had and asked for a second chance is in the United States. If he’s unable to do that or the American system doesn’t allow him to do it, I don’t know if it’s Canada’s obligation to take him in.”
Cases like this only add fuel to the debate about asylum seekers, Zaifman added.

“How do we deal with people like this? How do we maintain the integrity of the system and also ensure that we’re not denigrating our obligation to real refugees?” he asked.

“It’s a balance. In my view, yes, it does raise a concern. It shows perhaps individuals who are coming to Canada to make refugee claims may not have the strongest claim and I don’t want that to affect real refugees. I don’t want that to affect the selection process, the determination process, and the appetite of the Canadian public to help refugees.”

After the alleged assault on the CBSA officer, the Customs and Immigration Union said members have concerns about the number of asylum seekers with criminal convictions being allowed into Canada.

The CBSA later said only three of 135 people were detained between March 20 and April 16 because they were a danger to public safety. It still has not provided data on how many of those who are not detained have criminal records.

Meanwhile, Ali’s lawyer said the border is being protected, and Canadians have no reason to be concerned.

“I don’t believe Canadians need to be fearful that there’s some onslaught of criminals leaving the United States and coming into Canada. I don’t think that’s the situation at all,” Davis said.

“Canada wants to make sure that whomever is seeking refuge here is going to do so in a peaceful manner and they want to become future taxpayers and I think that’s what Mr. Ali is trying to demonstrate right now.”

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N.S. man facing deportation to Somalia to be released, lawyer says



TIMES COLONIST — HALIFAX — The lawyer for a young man who has spent most of his life in Canada but is now facing deportation to Somalia says his client will soon be released from detention.

Benjamin Perryman says the Immigration and Refugee Board has ordered Abdoul Abdi to be released from custody.

Abdi was six years old when he arrived in Nova Scotia as a refugee from the war-torn, African country.

He went to live with his aunt, who didn’t speak English, and was soon apprehended by the Nova Scotia government and put into foster care.

Between the ages of eight and 19, Abdi was moved 31 times, separated from his sister and was never granted citizenship.

His aunt’s efforts to regain custody were rejected, and attempts to file a citizenship application for the children was blocked.

Abdi served five years in prison for multiple charges, including aggravated assault.

Perryman said Abdi was given grossly inadequate care by the province as a foster child. He has said deporting him to Somalia — a country to which he has no ties and where he would be unable to care for his Canadian-born daughter — would be unfair.

Abdi’s case has become a rallying point for advocates who say it was wrong for the province to fail to apply for citizenship on his behalf.

Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia’s premier, said last week that he has ordered the province’s Community Services Department to complete a review of any cases that would require supports similar to those needed by Abdi.

The Canada Border Services Agency detained Abdi when he was released from prison earlier this month.

Although a date is not finalized, Abdi, 24, will soon be released to a halfway house in the greater Toronto area.

“He will likely be transferred to a halfway house tomorrow. Canada continues to pursue his deportation,” Perryman said in a tweet Monday.

(Global News, The Canadian Press)

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Canada failed Abdoul Abdi but it’s not too late to do the right thing



The Somali refugees life is a tragic story that highlights the gaps in Canadian institutions and systems that disproportionately and negatively impact Black Canadians.

“If it was your son, would you do anything to stop this?”

This was the question posed directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Fatouma, the sister of Abdoul Abdi, at a town hall event in Halifax this week.

Abdi’s is a tragic story that highlights the gaps in Canadian institutions and systems that disproportionately and negatively impact Black Canadians.

Abdi came to Canada as a child refugee from Somalia in 2000 with his sister and aunts. His mother died in a refugee camp while awaiting the three-year process that eventually landed his family here.

Under uncertain circumstances, of which his family continues to seek clarification due to language barriers at the time, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services removed a 7-year-old Abdi and his sister from the care of their aunt. Over the next decade the siblings were separated and Abdi was shuffled between 31 homes.

Abdi’s aunt never stopped fighting for guardianship, and while she obtained her own citizenship she was denied the opportunity to apply for citizenship on behalf of her niece and nephew. While under child protection, Abdi was provided insufficient support to navigate the process of becoming a Canadian citizen on his own.

He was failed by the very system that was meant to protect him.

For child welfare advocates, Abdi’s story and path from care to the criminal justice system is a familiar one. For the crimes he committed in his youth, which included aggravated assault, time has justly been served. At the moment of his release, as he prepared to reunite with his family and reintegrate into society, Abdi was detained once more.

Without his citizenship in place, Abdi was left vulnerable to the immigration process that could possibly lead to deportation.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder to speak truth to power, advocates across Canada have spoken out with a resounding roar on Abdi’s behalf, garnering attention and seeking immediate remedy for his case.

In response to Fatouma’s question, Trudeau emphasized compassion and empathy while outlining the ways in which he recognized Canadian systems failed Abdi.

“It opened our eyes to something that many of us knew was ongoing in many communities but we continue to need to address,” he said.

While his response was well informed, I would have liked to hear the prime minister name systemic anti-Black racism as a key factor to be addressed.

We need to directly acknowledge the cracks in our government systems through which Black Canadians are falling through at disproportionately high rates so that we can proactively tackle them.

South of our border, the president of the United States has continued his divisive political agenda anchored in anti-Black racism. After hearing of his comments this week I wonder how his defenders continue to uphold him as a leader.

Characterizing Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “s—hole countries,” in an immigration meeting Trump reportedly asked, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

As thousands of Haitian families look to Canada in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind deportation protections from nearly 60,000 Haitian refugees following the devastation of the 2010 earthquake, I hope Canada will show the compassion and empathy our prime minister talked about in his town hall this week and take them in.

Canada should be aiming for nothing less than global leadership in the steps we take to address anti-Black racism. To do this successfully we will need active engagement from Canadian political leaders.

They should be proactively partnering with Black communities to identify priorities, set goals, communicate them publicly, and track progress toward success.

It’s difficult to engage in dialogue about policy while Abdi and his family live in crisis, facing this terrifying uncertainty. I hope this nightmare is over for them very soon.

But how is it fair that his story be used to advance public policy before his own livelihood is restored?

It is time for him to be reunited with his family so they may begin the long journey of healing from these painful experiences. That is what’s fair.

And I hope once that happens we can dive deeply into rectifying the systems that failed him, and map our way forward.

Tiffany Gooch is a political strategist at public affairs firms Enterprise and Ensight, secretary of the Ontario Liberal Party Executive Council, and an advocate for increased cultural and gender diversity in Canadian politics.

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Memorable story: Respect, truth key in reporting young boy’s drowning death



As 2017 came to a close, StarPhoenix staff reflected on the stories that struck a personal chord with them this year. For Morgan Modjeski, it was getting at the truth in the chaotic hours after the tragic death of a child.

The goal of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was to get it right.

That was what I told Hussein Elmmi a day after his five-year-old son, Ahmedsadiq Elmmi, drowned in a pond near Dundonald School. When I sat down with Hussein, the boy’s funeral had been held just a few hours earlier at the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan Mosque on Copland Crescent.

Like any father in his situation would be, Hussein was crushed. Listening to the tape of our interview three months later, I heard his quiet voice again, speaking about his family’s unfathomable loss.

Support was pouring in for them. People all over Saskatoon were heartbroken over the accident, but no one more than Hussein and his loved ones. In our interview, he said there was no adjective to describe how the death affected his family.

Their lives would never be the same, and his frustration and anger were magnified by the misinformation circulating about his boy. The hours after a tragedy are chaotic. Some reports said Ahmedsadiq was a newcomer to Canada, but as The StarPhoenix gathered more information, it became clear that was not the case.

Hussein had questions about where the information was coming from. He felt people were stereotyping his son. While the family was new to Saskatoon, his wife had been living in Prince Albert since 2000 and Ahmedsadiq was a Canadian citizen, born in Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital.

Gathering information about a person who has died is always a challenge, and never enjoyable. It’s even more difficult when the person is a child.

Various people told reporters the boy’s family was a member of three different communities in Saskatoon: the Filipino community, the Pakistani community and the Somali community.

We started to reach out to community associations on Facebook in an attempt to get more information. That’s when a representative from the Pakistani community told me the child was a member of the Somali community and his funeral was taking place as we messaged back and forth.

After speaking with my editors, we decided I should stop by the funeral to seek more information from people who knew the family directly, or to see if it was possible to speak with the boy’s parents.

It was a delicate situation, to say the least. In looking for answers, we had to be respectful.

By the time I arrived, the funeral had ended and the small casket carrying Ahmedsadiq’s body was being loaded into the back of a hearse. There was no opportunity to speak with anyone extensively, as family had already moved on to the burial site. However, a trusted contact agreed to try to get a message to the family that the paper was hoping to speak with them.

An hour or so later, the contact called and after some brief conversations, we were told the boy’s father was willing to speak with me directly. We were going to hear more about the boy from the man who raised him.

Meanwhile, people across the city were also looking for answers. Information about the death — accurate or not — was spreading. More than 480 students attend the school, and few people knew the identity of the child who had drowned. Was it a relative, the child of a friend or an acquaintance?

When such questions are swirling around, journalists are under pressure to find the truth. Without help from the people directly involved, carrying out that task borders on impossible.

Frustrated by the misinformation spreading on the social media rumour mill, Hussein and his family wanted people to know the facts about Ahmedsadiq. At a time of unimaginable stress, they chose to trust The StarPhoenix, and nothing mattered more to us than living up to that responsibility.

Ahmedsadiq’s death is still under investigation by the Saskatoon Public School Division and Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth.

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