Sunday July 24, 2016 marks the loss of a son, a brother, an uncle, a citizen of Ottawa, a new member of our Canadian family, and a person, I’ll repeat a person, with thoughts, feelings, ambitions, fears, and a need for protection and security.
In front of men, women, and children on a busy Hintonberg street right here in our beloved capital, Mr. Abdi was beaten with batons, struck in the face multiple times with fists and brutally assaulted resulting in his death.
We often hear of far way officials in despotic regimes who use an inordinate amount of force to illicit control, “do as I say they often claim or I’ll beat you and your family and jail you.“ Many citizens of Ottawa and Canadians know and understand this scenario because they have lived it and fled to Canada to seek protection from the attitudes, practices, and patronage that make statements such as these to innocent civilians justified in these far away lands. We now know that attitudes and practices prevalent in patronage are not limited to far away lands and exist in our on backyard.
Sunday July 24, 2016, sent a clear message to the citizens of Ottawa that our police are to be feared, because our children may someday fall victim to an angry police officer with an agenda that stretches beyond his or her clear mandate to protect and serve the citizens of our beloved city. Ottawa citizens in the Black Community received a separate message, one that echoes the historic and systemic marginalization of Black People and other People of Colour. The insidious message sent through police practices and conduct continues to remind Black people that their lives are not equal to those of other citizens and that their bodies, pain, and rights are secondary and easily dismissible with jargon, politic rhetoric, and specific media reporting. A message echoed by our Mayor, Police Chief, several biased media outlets, questionable reporters, and municipal politicians. Who all chose to cloud injustice in empty rhetoric and complex jargon, while attempting to cast baseless aspirations on a single unarmed mentally ill man, who brutally lost his life.
However, much to the dismay of the enemies of democracy, transparency, fairness, and equality, we the people demand justice and accountability with the knowledge that justice cannot be obstructed, hindered or selectively administered,
The Justice for Abdirahamn Coalition would like call upon the Ottawa Police, the Office of the Mayor, the Ontario Special Investigations Unit, and all relevant stakeholders including those responsible for police and justice oversight, to urgently implement the following:
- A published and public copy of the full SIU Report on Abdirahman’s arrest and death. It is not acceptable that in 2016, a report impacting the sense of safety of ordinary citizens is kept secret and shrouded in mystery. The utter lack of regard for transparency in this regard is frightening and constitutes a deliberate attempt to prevent the public from being informed about the details of the misconduct of those they have trusted to guarantee their safety.
- Mandatory and extensive training for all current and new members of the Ottawa Police Force on diversity, equality, the Charter of Rights and freedoms, mental health, stress management, the law as it pertains to police misconduct, trust-building, negotiation, effective communication (the use of words), the proportional use of force. There is a clear gap in knowledge and training, which has now resulted in the loss of yet another life. This must be addressed. The force must instate this mandatory training and oversight bodies must facilitate the required resources and training immediately. We the people can no longer lose our lives at because of cost savings and inefficient bureaucracy.
- A mandatory re-assessment and reformation of the sections within the Police Services Act that govern and authorize the legal use of force by Police. Greater and fully impartial oversight mechanisms must be immediately established to ensure that police officers are not above the law and that they are not obstructing justice through bureaucracy and outdated and ineffective processes.
- Greater respect for the impartiality, neutrality, and integrity of local media. It has been increasingly apparent that media is influenced and or intimidated by the Ottawa police and we would like to remind all stakeholders that media neutrality is an integral component of any healthy democracy. We as that the force report all the facts of the case as they are not provide select language so as to sway public opinion unjustly.
- Robust and immediate Police Reform. The Ottawa Police Force lacks adequate leadership, normalizes police violence, and has not been able to provide citizens with clear answers or a sense of its control or handling of the difficult tasks at hand, following Mr. Abdi’s death. We call for greater diversity in employment so as to reflect the diversity of our Great Nation’s capital. The force requires more people of colour, first nations, women (of all backgrounds), persons with disabilities, and all other minority groups. It’s time we revamped our force to reflect Ottawa and not a small segment of Ottawa. The position of Police Chief should be awarded to an individual within the force that has been elected by the citizens of Ottawa at the same time as the mayoral elections.
- Honest and genuine engagement with Ottawa’s diverse communities and community groups. Ottawa Police, need to listen and learn more about what citizens want to see in their force and how it they feel these things can be achieved.
- Margaret Parsons, Executive Director, African Canadian Legal Clinic
- Yamikani Msosa, Public Education/ Media Coordinator & Support Worker
- Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa (SASC)
- David Onyalo, Ottawa-based Director of Anti-Racism & Human Rights, Canadian Labour Congress
- Ikram Warsame, Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers (CASL)
Justice for Abdirahman Coalition