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‘We bury a lot of youth’: Somali-Canadian community cries out for action after 2 fatal shootings

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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.

Farhia Warsame said the Dixon Road and Islington Avenue area is an ‘underserved’ and ‘marginalized’ community. (Martin Trainor/CBC News )

“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.

Abdelrahim Mohamed holds a a picture of his son Khadr Mohamed, 22, who was found dead in Little Italy with a gunshot wound to the chest in August. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

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

Canada’s immigration minister warns against illegal crossings at Minnesota’s northern border

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Canada’s immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, arrived in Minnesota just days after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand for now new travel restrictions for eight countries, including Somalia — the land a teenage Hussen fled with his family.

But even as he has come to symbolize for some the divergent immigration philosophies on either side of the U.S.-Canada border, Hussen shuns criticism of the Trump administration’s approach. In fact, he was in the Twin Cities this week in part to discourage a spike in asylum-seekers crossing into Canada this year that has tested the country’s famously welcoming attitude.

“We are huge fans of immigration, but we want people to immigrate through the regular channels,” he said.

In a speech at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Hussen touted Canada’s measured approach, including a gradual increase in immigration planned over the next three years.

He met with resettlement agency staff and other advocates, plugging a unique Canadian program in which private citizens and churches sponsor some refugees.

Members of the local Somali community, where he enjoys rock star status, threw him a welcoming reception in Minneapolis.

“He is an icon,” said Mohamed Ahmed, a local community leader and Bush Foundation fellow. “People see him as an example of what is possible in the West.”

The first Somali-Canadian elected to parliament and appointed as minister, Hussen was 16 when he arrived alone in Toronto, where older brothers had resettled earlier. He has spoken of finding a sense of belonging on his high school track team and of enduring a two-hour commute as he worked at a gas station to save money for college.

He got a law degree from the University of Ottawa and practiced criminal and immigration law. Once a receptionist in an opposition politician’s office, he was elected to parliament in 2015. In January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped him to lead the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

“I am a big champion of our immigration system because I have been through it,” said Hussen, whose visit to Minneapolis was his third to the United States since becoming minister.

In the media, Hussen is often cast as an emblem of Canada’s stance against anti-immigration sentiments sweeping the United States and Europe. But he is unfailingly diplomatic about the differences between the Canadian and American approaches, saying only he has a good working relationship with counterparts on this side of the border. And, he stresses, Canada is by no means unified in support of more immigration.

A recent rise in illegal border crossings into Canada has triggered pushback from conservative politicians there and concerns from border communities such as the Manitoba city of Emerson, unsettled and overwhelmed by the arrivals. In Manitoba, many of those arrivals have been Somalis who had unsuccessfully applied for asylum in the United States. Now, Hussen and some Canadian lawmakers are reaching out to immigrant communities to highlight that border crossers undergo rigorous screening and face deportation if their asylum claims fall short.

“We don’t want people uprooting their lives based on false information,” Hussen said. “Crossing the border irregularly is not a free ticket to Canada.”

Ahmed said word in the local Somali community remains that Canada offers a much gentler welcome to those arriving at its border with asylum claims. He spoke of a friend, a permanent resident who faced deportation after a criminal conviction, who crossed into Canada this year. Though he doesn’t know yet if he will be granted asylum, the friend reports receiving subsidized housing and free legal help, Ahmed said.

To a packed auditorium at the Humphrey School, Hussen touted a plan the Canadian government released in November that will bring in almost 1 million new immigrants by 2020. About 60 percent will be employment-based immigrants, largely arriving through a merit-based system that awards points for education, language and professional skills, among other factors.

Hussen said doing immigration right requires an investment: The Canadian government is spending $1 billion this year on language classes, help with finding jobs and other integration efforts. But he said bringing in newcomers is crucial to ward off a looming labor shortage given Canada’s aging population.

“We strongly believe immigration is key to our future success in Canada,” he said.

Hussen also praised a Canadian refugee resettlement system in which, alongside the government’s program, private citizens and organizations commit to supporting refugees for a year.
The country has found these refugees do better easing into Canadian life. Hussen said the United Kingdom and several Latin American countries are modeling new programs on the Canadian approach, though he hasn’t yet fielded inquiries from the United States.

Hussen said with more refugees displaced globally than ever before in modern history, Canada plans to remain a key player in resettlement: “More people are on the move, and we can’t turn our heads away.”

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Briefing Room

Somali man found guilty in kidnapping of Canadian journalist

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FILE PHOTO: Somali national Ali Omar Ader arrested for 2008 hostage-taking in Somalia of two freelance journalists, Canadian Amanda Lindhout and Australian Nigel Brennan, is seen in an undated photo from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Courtesy RCMP/Handout via REUTERS

REUTERS — A Somali national has been convicted in an Ontario court for his role in the 2008 kidnapping of Canadian Amanda Lindhout, who was held captive in Somalia for 460 days and released only after her family paid a ransom, Canadian media reported on Wednesday.
Ali Omar Ader, 40, was found guilty of one charge of hostage-taking for his role as negotiator for the kidnappers, in a decision handed down on Wednesday in Ontario Superior Court in Ottawa.

Lindhout, a freelance journalist, was taken hostage in Somalia on Aug. 23, 2008, along with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, while working on a story. They were released for ransom in November 2009.

Ader was lured to Canada from Somalia in 2015 and arrested in Ottawa as part of a sting operation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in which an officer posed as a publisher interested in a book Ader was writing on Somalia, according to court documents.

Prosecutors argued that Ader had been the main spokesman for the hostage-takers, negotiating first with Lindhout’s mother and later with a private consultant hired by the families of Lindhout and Brennan.
According to court documents, he referred to himself as “a commander” and repeatedly threatened that the hostages would be harmed or killed unless the ransom was paid.

During his trial, Ader said that he too had been kidnapped by the group holding Lindhout captive, and was forced to act as their spokesman, as he spoke some English.

In his ruling, Justice Robert Smith said Ader’s claims were “completely unbelievable,” numerous Canadian media outlets reported. Reuters has not read the ruling.

Ader faces up to life in prison. Sentencing in the case is not expected until next year.

Lindhout has said she was repeatedly sexually and physically assaulted during her captivity, and both she and Brennan have said they were tortured and starved.

In 2013, Lindhout recounted her experience in the book “A House in the Sky.”

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Canada

Two Canadas: My story of generosity and systemic racism | Honourable Ahmed Hussen

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TEDx — Hon. Ahmed Hussen entered Canada a child refugee, and today is Minister of Immigration and Refugees. He shares his experience of Canada: a country of immense generosity, but also one that struggles with systemic racism, and paints a bold picture of how a country can become truly great.

Ahmed Hussen is Canada’s Immigration Minister and Member of Parliament for the riding of York South-Weston. A lawyer and social activist, he has a proven track record of leadership and community empowerment.

Born and raised in Somalia, Ahmed immigrated to Canada in 1993; In 2002, he co-founded the Regent Park Community Council, which helped secure a $500 million revitalization project for the area, and he has been widely recognized for his significant contributions to the city of Toronto.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

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