SOMALI COMMUNITY CONDEMNS DIXON ROAD RAIDS

Press Conference

After meeting and preparing statements last night, members of the Rexdale Community, largely members of the Somali community affected by the raids conducted by Toronto Police Services and police from across Southern Ontario on Dixion Road last Thursday, held a press conference at the Rexdale Community Hub today to condemn police actions during the raids.

“Community members are angered by the destruction of property and disrespectful remarks made by some officers and the police brutality that they were subject to,” said Mahad Yusuf, executive director of Midaynta Community Services.

“The community has been further stigmatized by the careless actions of some officers involved in the raid, and the irresponsible conduct of Toronto’s disgraced mayor,” Margaret Parsons said. Parsons also made the allegation that the police choice to target the Dixon community was based on recent media attention connecting Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to residences suspected to be bases in Rexdale’s drug trade, and the now infamous video which allegedly shows Rob Ford smoking from a glass pipe, although the video’s existence has still yet to be proven. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair had disclosed previously that investigators had herd subjects of their investigations discussing the video several weeks ago over wire-taps that had been in place for nearly a year.

Dixon residents in attendance accused police of kicking down doors at random, carrying out unlawful assaults of building residents not subject to arrest warrants, carrying out unlawful arrests without warrants, uttering racial slurs, and needlessly destroying property.

However, not all Somali residents were in agreement with the panel. Margaret Parsons’ call for residents to thank the leaders of the Somali community prompted one woman in attendance to vocalize her distrust of Somali leaders, urging those in attendance to ‘recognize and address the corruption within the Somali community’. This created a huge uproar among those in attendance with many of them calling for the woman to be removed from the public gathering.

Mike McCormack, President of the Toronto Police Association,  stated in a televised interview following the press conference that the police take all allegations of misconduct seriously, but that many of the residents were ‘victims of their own families’, asserting that drug traffickers intentionally resided with family members to shield them from police investigations. McCormack went on to say that the community at large ‘thinks we did a good job’.

Toronto Police Services 23rd Division’s Community Relations Officer, Constable Parm Rai, could not be reached for comment.

As a result of Project Traveller 44 arrests were made, 224 charges laid, 40 weapons seized, $500,000 in cash and an estimated $3,000,000 (street value) in narcotics. How much of those arrests and seizures took place on Dixon Road is unclear, with raids being conducted on nearby residences on Mercury Road, and at least eight of those arrested being residents of the City of Windsor.

The African Canadian Legal Clinic, after meeting with members of the community, Somali community services agencies, and the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, prepared this press release prior to today’s conference:

AFRICAN CANADIAN LEGAL CLINIC
PRESS RELEASE:
SOMALI COMMUNITY CONDEMNS DIXON ROAD RAIDS
Toronto: June 17, 2013

At 3:00 a.m. on June 13, 2013, units located at 320, 330, 340, 380, and 390 Dixon Road were raided by Toronto Police, as part of a police investigation dubbed “Project Traveller”. “In the aftermath of the raids, many community members feel victimized, vilified and traumatized as a result of the reckless manner in which officers forcibly entered their homes. Community members are angered by the destruction of property and disrespectful remarks made by some officers and the police brutality that they were subject to,” says Mahad Yusuf, Executive Director of Midaynta Community Services.

While the raids were intended to target criminal elements in the Dixon community, the actions of the TPS labeled and profiled the entire Somali community on Dixon Road as possible criminal elements. “This is particularly hurtful to a community already reeling from systemic barriers to services due to the combined impact of anti-Black racism, and Islamophobia. The community has been further stigmatized by the careless actions of some officers involved in the raid, and the irresponsible conduct of Toronto’s disgraced Mayor,” stated Margaret Parsons, Executive Director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic.

Residents shared stories about the raid with community leaders at a Town Hall meeting held at 320 Dixon Road on June 15, 2013. “Instead of providing additional resources, or hiring trauma counselors from within the community to heal the collective wounds caused by the raid, an increased level of policing has been deployed in the community. This only serves to further perpetuate fear in an already victimized and traumatized community,” says Yusuf.

At the community meeting several disheartening stories were shared. In one horrifying example, a 100 year old community Elder was so shocked by the raid on her unit she fell to the ground and was not assisted by officers. Her daughter, who is also a senior citizen, was cuffed, pushed to the ground and kicked by officers while her pleas for water to control her high blood pressure were ignored. Another 65 year old woman, who recently immigrated to Canada just 3 months ago, was also cuffed. Children as young as 10 years old woke up to guns pointed at their heads. “All of this has caused near irreparable damage to community police relations and has entrenched the feelings of indignity amongst residents,” says Yusuf.

In July 2012 the African Canadian Community responded to the Danzig Street and Eaton Centre shooting by calling for sustainable funding to the African Canadian community for social development programs. “Rather than heeding the call made by community leaders and organizations, the response has been further criminalization and racial profiling of our community. Clearly, nothing has changed,” said Parsons.

For further information contact:

Mahad Yusuf, Executive Director
Midaynta Community Services
(E): mahad@midaynta.com
(T): 416-544-1992 Ext. 229
(C): 416-702-8056
Roger Love, BA., J.D. Advice Counsel
African Canadian Legal Clinic
(E): lovero@lao.on.ca
(T): 416-214-4747 Ext. 25
(C): 647-294-1583

18 KINO STREET EAST, SWTE 901, T0RONTO, ONTARIO M5C1C4 TEL: (416) 214-4747 FAX: (416) 214-4748

Somali Canadians…
Fact Sheet

Canada has one of the largest Somali populations in the western world, with the census reporting 37,785 people claiming Somali descent, though unofficial estimates place the figure as high as 150,000. Somalis tend to be concentrated in the southern part of the province of Ontario, especially the Ottawa and Toronto areas. The Albertan cities of Calgary and Edmonton have also seen a significant increase in their respective Somali communities over the past five years. In addition, the neighborhood of Rexdale in Toronto has one of the largest Somali populations in the country. In the early 1990s, Canada saw an increase in the total number of Somali immigrants entering the country, with some secondary migration from the United States.

As with many other immigrant groups in the Toronto area, Somalis have faced some barriers to employment despite counting many qualified professionals; This has been attributed to enclave economies, self-employment, language unfamiliarity, and various public policies and social programs.

The Drop out Rate
•        The Toronto District School Board Grade 9 cohort study looking at Fall 2000 students found that the highest dropout rates (according to student 9 language) were Portuguese, Spanish and Somali speaking students.
•        Somali community has a 36.7% drop out rate which is the second highest in Toronto

Criminal Justice
•        Generation 1.5 – are the second generation Somali youth who came to Canada at a young age
•        Because of the various forms of discrimination faced by their parents, Somali second generation youth have difficulties integrating into Canadian society
•        High Unemployment Rate: Even with high school diploma or university degree, Somali males were unemployed (Gariba, 2009)
•        Unemployment is significant barrier for young Somali community, as a result, many Somalis migrated west
•        Unfortunately, a result, over 59 Somali male5 who moved to Edmonton for employment opportunities have died
•        This puts the homicide rate in the Edmonton Somali community higher than the national homicide rates in high-risk countries like Panama, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

Social Housing: The issues
•        10 year wait list for affordable housing. Affordability: families spend 50% or more of income on rent.
•        Overcrowding: small spaces housing 6 people
•        TCH property aging and in deplorable condition, while the landscape outside is poorly maintained and offers no space to socialize.

“When you live in a bad neighborhood, not even the advantages of family, intellect, and ambition can protect you from the violence that threatens your community.”

Unemployment

Parents
•        Long-term implication of the initial settlement experience.
•        English proficiency a deterrent.
•        Lack of affordable child care Foreign skills hard to get accredited.

Youth
•        Over 80% of the Somali-Canadian community is under 30.
•        Negative perception oft he community.
•        Institutionalized discrimination based on name or address.
•        Unemployment rate hovers at 70 % in Toronto alone.
•        Lack of opportunity = Endemic disenfranchisement
•        No networks/human capital to tap in.

For more information please contact:
Amina Noor
Somali Youth outreach Worker
Midaynta Community Services
(416) 544-1992 or anoormidaynta.com

External links:

http://www.680news.com/2013/06/18/somali-canadian-community-condemns-project-traveller-raids/
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/members-of-toronto-s-somali-community-speak-out-against-raids-1.1330664/
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/06/18/toronto_somalis_say_they_were_victimized_by_police_in_dixon_road_raids.html

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