Release: Mourners demand inquest, action over death in immigration custody

Lack of Coroner’s inquest, and continued use of Ontario prisons for federal immigration enforcement sparks calls for change.

Toronto – A petition initiated by 88 immigration detainees in the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay and signed by over 1500 people will be delivered to Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi today, August 10th, Prisoner Justice Day, calling for a coroner’s inquest into the death of Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan (Abdi). Abdi, a 39 year-old Somali refugee had been in immigration detention custody at CECC for three years when he was transferred to the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, and died on June 11th. The only known circumstances of Mr Hassan’s death comes from a short SIU statement saying that he died after being “restrained by officers”. Residents are also calling on Ontario to cut ties with federal immigration enforcement, and stop jailing immigrants without charges or trial on the federal government’s behalf. The agreement between the two parties is up for renewal in January, 2016.

“Abdi was a friend, a brother, a son, and someone suffering from mental health illnesses, he deserved support, not three years of imprisonment without charges and trial and then death. Not only does Abdi’s death in immigrant detention in Ontario deserve a Coroner’s inquest, it’s actually required by law, what is taking so long?” says Tings Chak with the End Immigration Detention Network. “While a Coroner’s inquest will shed some light on what happened, Minister Yasir Naqvi has to take action now to end use of Ontario prisons for immigration detention so that these tragedies don’t continue.”

“Section 10 (4.6) of the Coroner’s Act specifies that an inquest must be called when death happens by unnatural causes and so it must take place but Abdi’s death is also a reminder that Ontario government has no business imprisoning thousands of people who have no charges and no trial, on the Federal government’s behalf. This is a completely unjust and unethical use of Ontario prisons and its resulting in deaths, it must end,” explained immigration consultant Macdonald Scott from Carranza LLP.

“When we woke up [on June 12th] they told us Hassan died from a stroke. A newspaper said he was being restrained and died. We’re wondering who’s next. Am I next? Are my fellow friends my brothers here next who’s next ? We’re on immigration hold, you don’t know what’s gonna happen so you have the fear of losing your life, being assaulted or being forced to get on a plane. There’s a lot of concerns that we have” said T.R., one of the immigration detainees who initiated the petition. T.R. is a 27 year old father who has lived in Canada for 12 years, and has been in detention for 5 months.

Abdi is the 12th person known to have died in immigration detention custody in Canada since 2000. Of them, at least six, Sheik Kudrath, Kevon O-Brien Phillip, Shawn Dwight Cole, Joseph Dunn, Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan and an unidentified man are known to have died in Ontario provincial prisons. In 2011-2012, the Ontario government was paid $20,000,000 by Canada Border Services Agency to detain these immigrants. Ontario is thus profiting from these deaths, and these detentions are hugely costly to residents across the country.

“Abdi’s death is proof that it’s not just policing agencies that refuse to accept that Black lives matter, but that Ontario prisons and the immigration system are also brutalizing and killing black and racialized peoples,” says Ellie Adekur-Carlson of the Network to Eliminate Police Violence. “Abdi, like Andrew Loku killed by Toronto police, was a refugee with mental illness, we need to make sure that these deaths do not continue, and those responsible are brought to justice.”

August 10th is the 40th annual Prisoner Justice Day. The deaths of Edward Nalon on August 10, 1974 and the subsequent death of Robert Landers in May of 1976, both occurring in the segregation unit of Millhaven Prison, are the catalyst for Prisoner Justice Day. Prisoners in Millhaven Institution marked the first anniversary of Edward Nolan’s death on August 10, 1975 by going on a hunger strike and a day of mourning. Prisoner Justice Day was officially recognized as a memorial on August 10, 1976. Prisoners across Canada now mark August 10 as Prisoner Justice Day to mourn their friends and comrades killed and mistreated in incarceration.


Media Contact: Tings Chak, 416 276 2174

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