June 20, 2020 – Justice for Abdirahman Speech on City Hall.

In the name of the Creator the Most Gracious the Most Merciful

My name is Hamid Ibrahim and I am a member of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition. I am here today to deliver a message to you and urge you to act.

In recent weeks, the senseless killing of George Floyd has galvanized the world. The horrific video of George’s last moments at the hands of those tasked with his protection has truly laid bare a capacity for racist brutality that many in the United States and Canada have failed to acknowledge. Just as with Abdirahman Abdi’s death and the recent assault of Obi Ifedi here in Ottawa, violence against Black people has been willfully ignored by our institutions. The death of Greg Ritchie in Ottawa in 2019 and recent police killings of Indigenous people across Canada, shows us that this violence is deployed in equal force against our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Yet in our city and beyond, institutional and structural change has been slow, despite mounting video evidence of wildly disproportionate acts of violence, amounting to naked complacency in the face of summary executions.   

Extra-judicial killings of unarmed Black and Indigenous people at the hands of police has proven itself a pandemic. This pandemic requires the same attention, diligence, and far-reaching approaches established by public health officials in their fight against COVID-19. Demands for justice have reached a boiling point; they can no longer be ignored.

The unjust killing of Abdirahman Abdi is the hallmark of a broken system. It is a betrayal of duty by police, by those with which we have entrusted the most significant of responsibilities: the use of force, in a society where violence is otherwise universally abhorred. When those tasked with ensuring the maintenance of peace betray their oaths and by extension the communities they have vowed to serve, the deterioration of civil society ensues. 

How many more lives need to be lost or how much more corruption do we need to see? Just yesterday, it was brought to our attention that in recently released audio recording, Matt Skof, an Ottawa Police Service officer and President of the Ottawa Police Association allegedly used a graphic and derogatory term in reference to a Black community advocate. He did so in relation to her interaction with the Ottawa Police Service in the immediate aftermath of Abdirahman Abdi’s death. While it is yet to be confirmed that the audio is the unedited voice of Mr. Skoff, we have yet to hear otherwise despite calls for comment. 

This, dear people of Ottawa, is what we are up against. It is absolutely appalling that a police union leader, who represents all police officers would so confidently utter such misogynistic words. If the membership at the Ottawa police wont take it upon themselves to demand better, then we will.

It then falls on us, the citizenry. It falls on myself and all of you to act, to demand better and to establish safeguards to ensure that every individual enjoys the safety and security afforded to their neighbours, regardless of race. 

For four years we have sought to negotiate, to discuss, and to politely urge those in authority to take substantive action. The City of Ottawa, the Province of Ontario, and the Government of Canada have yet take concrete steps toward true reform. 

This moment presents those with authority in all levels of government, an opportunity to do more than pay lip service. 

We must take necessary steps toward true universal justice, with the eyes of humanity, and history itself, firmly fixed on us. The Justice for Abdirahman Coalition makes the following demands on all three levels of government to challenge the entrenched racism in policing.

We call on the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police:

  1. To join us in our call for Matt Skof’s resignation. This is a matter of principle. Authorities at the city level and members of the police must take a stand and do the right thing. We know that significant layers of legislation and processes will prevent any immediate calls for termination, but a call for resignation is the right thing to do so DO IT! 
  2. We call on the city to prioritize coordinated services in community well being from municipal budgets, with a focus on mental health supports.
  3. To commit to the reallocation of a significant portion of the Ottawa Police Service budget towards holistic community safety and well-being. There should be systems in place that provide alternatives to armed responses when the community calls for help. 
  4. We call for the launch of a thorough and impartial investigation into the April 2020 assault of Obi Ifedi at the hands of a bylaw officer, and answers as to why preferential treatment was afforded to the officer in question. The City of Ottawa must immediately drop any fines levied against Mr. Ifedi during this incident, and work with community partners to address racism within Ottawa’s Bylaw department. 

We call on the Province of Ontario:

  1. To immediately reinstate Bill 175 which was discarded by Doug Ford’s government and which sought to put in place much needed accountability and transparency in policing. This would have ensured that criminal cops, charged with violence against the community could be suspended without pay. This would save millions of dollars across the province, money that could go towards improved community supports.
  2. We call for the province to legislate the collection of race-based data in policing, health, and education systems. For years we have been told we don’t have the evidence, or that it’s not time to collect this evidence. The time was yesterday, but today will do. 

We call on the Government of Canada:

To launch a comprehensive investigation into entrenched racism within the RCMP, echoing the demands of Indigenous leaders.

To those we have called on, we will be watching for these actions and remember you when it comes time to head to the polls. 

To all of you here today, These are our calls to action. It is now up to you and I to translate these into reality. Let us not go home content with the shouting  of slogans and the raising of placards. Please, when you get home, at the very least visit www.justiceforabdirahman.ca and urge your elected officials to take immediate action on these calls. We have made it easy for you. All that is needed is your continued pressure, In some cases this will require years of thankless work on the ground, in other cases much can be done with the click of a mouse.

 

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