After two separate fatal shootings in the the Dixon and Islington area within a week, frustrated members of the Somali- Canadian community in the neighbourhood came together Thursday to call for action to end the violence.
“We lose a lot of youth. We bury a lot of youth,” said Aya Nomar, who spoke at the event.
During the news conference, community members called on police, government and the media to do more following last week’s shootings.
Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, was shot in the middle of the day while sitting in his car on Oct. 5th.
The soon-to-be father was later pronounced dead in hospital.
Then on Sunday Oct. 8, police responded to a triple shooting.
A boy and two men with gunshot wounds were found in the parking lot of Kingsview Village Junior School.
16-year-old Zakariye Ali, of Toronto, died in hospital of his injuries.
Nomar is mourning the loss of the teenager whom she said was best friends with her son.
“I mean, all the Somali boys, they touch my heart but when you know the person and when they’re part of you, it touches you,” she said.
Police and politics
Farhia Warsame, executive director of the Somali Women’s and Children’s Support Network, told the news conference shared that she too has been personally touched by violence in the community.
“I am also a victim. My son passed away and shot in 2015,” she said.
Warsame called for Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau to visit the area, which she says is lacking in supports for youth.
“Mentoring programs, outreach programs, prevention programs, all of that is not happening in this area,” she said.
At the news conference Thursday, Warsame also acted as a translator for others who have also loved ones to violence.
Abdelrahim Mohamed’s son Khadr Mohamed was found dead from a gunshot wound in August 2017.
He questioned what police and the government are doing to control the flow of guns.
“What we cannot figure out is—how these teenage young children get the guns in their hands? he said through Warsame.
Ward 2 Coun. Michael Ford attended the community meeting Thursday.
“It’s heart wrenching,” he said.
He is now calling for a meeting with police and city officials to improve safety in this neighbourhood.
“Gun violence just doesn’t happen in North Etobicoke, it happens across the city and I think it’s about us as city council, as a collective, to be addressing violence in our city,” he said.
No more labels
Community members also addressed the stigma that the neighbourhood is facing in light of of the violence.
“We don’t need labelling. We are tired of labelling. We just need justice,” Warsame said.
On CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, community leader Munira Abukar said she is also frustrated by how some people in other parts of the city are reacting to the shootings.
“I like to call it a colour assumption—based on the colour you are, there’s an assumption that you in a sense deserve to die,” she said.
She says people are quick to assume that when shootings happen, the victims have somehting to do with their own deaths.
“No one wants to give you the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘Maybe someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time.'”
Even in cases where the victim has had a criminal background, she said “assuming that young men deserve to die and not even have the chance to fix their lives is also something that doesn’t sit well with me.”
Abukar said she has come very close to being caught up in the violence.
Once, she and her siblings had to come to the aid of a man who was shot.
Another time she said shots rang out, just as she and her friend were supposed to be going out.
“I got outside and saw the damage that her car had been shot multiple times, including where I would have been sitting.”
She and her loved ones escaped injury or death that time but Abukar wonders what would have happened if that hadn’t been the case.
She questions, “what would have been our legacy? What would we have been labelled as?
She too is calling on local politicians to do more but in the meantime “you have to make the space safe for yourself,” she said.
Hoping to come up with strategies to do that, Farhia Warsame is calling on the Somali-Canadian community to come together for a meeting on Saturday Oct. 14.
Canada’s institutions repeatedly failed former child refugee Abdoul Abdi
The ethical case to fight the deportation of former child refugee Abdoul Abdi from Canada is a straightforward one with no visible shades of grey.
Yet it has ballooned into a needless battle exposing federal and provincial indifference to non-citizen children.
On Feb. 15, a Federal Court will hear an emergency request to temporarily stop Abdi’s deportation.
The broad strokes of Abdi’s story are these.
Instability was the only constant in the life of this man, born 24 years ago in Saudi Arabia to a Saudi father and Somali mother. He lived for four years at a refugee camp in Djibouti and then at age 6 landed in Canada along with his sister and aunts.
At age 8, child protective services scooped him and his sister out of their aunt’s home for reasons unknown. This is not surprising — research in Ontario last year showed Aboriginal and Black children are far more likely to be investigated and taken into care than white children.
The family now speculates this could be because their aunt, who didn’t speak much English, took too long to register them for school.
Abdi bounced around among not one or two or a dozen homes but 31 of them, some, he says, abusive situations. A study last year by Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth linked foster care experiences to later outcomes of homelessness and criminality, among others.
Abdi, too, got sucked into illegal activities.
When he messed up, he faced the consequences. About four years in prison for multiple offences, including aggravated assault.
He is also paying the price for errors by the system.
On Jan. 4, no alarm bells were sounded in the labyrinthine corridors of power in Canada, when Canada Border Services Agency officers arrested Abdi as he left prison after serving his sentence and was at the gates of a halfway house.
They were going to deport him, they said. Send him packing because it turned out the kid who grew up in Canada was not a Canadian citizen. His crown parents — the Department of Community Services — had never applied for a citizenship for him.
Where was he being banished? Not to Saudi, his birthplace, which might have been the logical though still unjustifiable choice, but to Somalia, the place of his mother’s ethnic origins, a place so dangerous that Canadian officials and planes don’t go there. A place whose language Abdi does not speak, and where he knows no one.
Repeatedly abandoned as a child, Abdi is now an officially unwanted adult.
It has taken a village, for us to hear of Abdi.
More accurately, it has taken a set of extraordinarily large-hearted individuals, many of whom have never met Abdi, but who are tied together by a passionate rejection of injustice to bring his story to the forefront of our nation’s conscience.
Last month, Halifax poet laureate and activist El Jones chronicled in the Halifax Examiner just one week of the collective action taken for Abdi.
In it she wove the stories of disparate lives criss-crossing through past injustices. How Jones came across Abdi via Coralee Smith, the mother of Ashley Smith who died in 2007, asphyxiated from a ligature tied around her neck as correctional officers watched.
How Abdi’s sister Fatouma courageously challenged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall in Nova Scotia, thereby ensuring national attention on this case.
How Jones and journalist/activist Desmond Cole questioned Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen at a National Black Summit in that city, and endured criticisms of being disruptive and rude and not supporting a fellow Black minister.
“As though,” Jones writes, “having a Black man sign the deportation papers is progress.”
She writes of Abdi’s “fantastic” lawyer Ben Perryman who finds himself suddenly under the glare of media spotlight.
And of the near-misses, the small successes, the support and amplification from Black Lives Matter and academics/activists Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi, and student activist Masuma Khan among others.
Here is an important thing:
“All of us have jobs, and school, and families,” she writes. “This isn’t even the only thing we’re advocating on this week, because there’s always more suffering, more rights being denied, more people in need.”
Yet Jones writes of hope, and of love that carries them forward.
Their undertaking serves to underline the inhumanity of the decisions that mark this case.
Federal minister of public safety Ralph Goodale refused to pause a deportation hearing while Abdi’s lawyers mount a constitutional challenge to his deportation. At its hearing on March 7, the Immigration and Refugee Board will not review the complexities of the case to decide if Abdi can enter or remain in the country, his lawyer told the CBC. His criminal record will inevitably lead to a deportation order, he said.
A deportation order would automatically strip Abdi’s permanent resident status.
No PR status means he can’t keep his job, means he risks going back to prison; being employed is a condition for his release.
And round and round it goes.
This is the face of institutions ganging up against vulnerable individuals. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told an audience in Quebec it’s time to recognize anti-Black racism exists in Canada. “Canada can and must do better,” he said.
What are we waiting for?
Ottawa police identify Northview Road homicide victim as Egal Daud
CBC — Ottawa police have identified the man found dead inside a vehicle in Nepean Sunday as Egal Daud, 30, and say he was fatally shot.
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Daud’s body was found inside a parked car on Northview Road, near the intersection of Baseline and Merivale roads, around 10 a.m.
The Ottawa police major crime unit, which is leading the investigation, said his body may have been there since Saturday.
Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt added on Sunday police didn’t yet know if the shooting happened there, or if that’s just where the vehicle was left.
Anyone with information is asked to call the major crime unit at 613-236-1222 extension 5493 or give an anonymous tip via Crime Stoppers or the Ottawa police app.
WATCH: Canada under fire for bid to deport Somali refugee
Canada is facing criticism from human rights groups for its attempts to deport a 24-year-old immigrant to Somalia. Abdoul Abdi was born in Saudi Arabia and he says he has no ties to Somalia, where there have been years of violence from the armed group al-Shabab.
For now, the deportation is postponed while his lawyers ask a court to allow him to stay.
Al Jazeera’s Daniel Lak reports from Toronto.