Canada’s largest labour organization is saddened and outraged by news of yet another black man dying after a violent confrontation with police, this time in Ottawa, and it calls on Canada’s mayors to take action.
37-year old Somali-Canadian Abdirahman Abdi died on Monday after succumbing to injuries sustained after being pursued and, according to several witnesses, violently beaten by Ottawa police on July 24.
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is backing community calls for a publicly transparent and accountable investigation into the brutal altercation and adds the broader context of systemic racism, Islamophobia, and the police response to mental health issues must also be addressed.
“The unacceptable reality is that this is just one more in a string of incidents of police violence against black people in Canada and across North America. This occurs against a backdrop of racial profiling that manifests itself through disproportionate harassment and surveillance of racialized communities and a culture of impunity for police,” said CLC president, Hassan Yussuff.
“None of these tragedies are happening in isolation, so it isn’t enough to treat them that way. We very clearly have to have to address systemic issues across the country,” he added.
Yussuff said the CLC is reaching out to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and other big city mayors across Canada to ask them to take the lead in striking municipal taskforces to investigate systemic racism and Islamophobia in policing and to review police training, guidelines and protocols for the use of force and for responding to incidents involving individuals with mental illness, disabilities, or who are exhibiting mental distress.
Those taskforces, he says, must include those most affected, such as victims’ families and representatives of the racialized, Indigenous and other marginalized communities who have been the targets of this type of violence.
Yussuff also called on provinces and territories across the country to ensure better oversight of police and to mandate anti-black racism, mental health, and de-escalation training for every level of policing.
“As so many organizations and community leaders have already said, too often Special Investigations Units operate in secrecy, and officers involved in violent altercations are exonerated,” said Yussuff.
“Provincial and territorial governments must work to ensure that Police Acts are amended to ensure that police oversight bodies, such as SIUs, are more transparent and accountable,” he added.