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August 4, 2016

OFL Statement

August 4, 2016

Abdirahman Abdi’s Death Cannot Be In Vain

The OFL Calls for the Eradication of Systemic Racism and Lethal Force in Policing

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is disheartened and outraged at the death of a defenseless black man after a violent confrontation with police, in Ottawa, and calls on Ontario’s mayors and provincial leaders to take action.

Abdirahman Abdi, a 37-year old Somali-Canadian with unspecified mental health issues, died on Monday, July 25, after succumbing to injuries sustained from being pursued and, according to several witnesses, violently beaten by Ottawa police a day before his untimely death.

“Contrary to ignorant beliefs by detractors, including the president of the Ottawa Police Association Matt Skof, the notion of systematic racism and unnecessary belligerence by Canadian police officers is far from an imported ideology from United States,” said OFL Executive Vice-President Ahmad Gaied. “Like many black, Indigenous and racialized community members that have suffered similar fates at the hands of police, Mr. Abdi was a victim of his skin colour, period.”

The tragic death of Mr. Abdi shares commonalities with the dozen other people in mental crisis who have been shot by Ontario police over the past twenty years. The OFL is adamant that the Attorney General of Ontario must impose uniform guidelines across the province that require any police response to focus on de-escalating tensions, diffuse confrontation and save lives.

“Racism and brutality are not internal police matters. These are rampant systemic problems that require immediate attention and solutions. We must all collaboratively and proactively take action to ensure Mr. Abdi’s death, along with others that have suffered a similar end, is not in vain,” added Gaied.

The OFL firmly believes Ontario’s newly established Anti-Racism Directorate should include, as part of its mandate, an examination of systemic racism and Islamophobia in policing. Additionally, mayors and provincial leaders should proactively establish and lead municipal taskforces to review police training, guidelines and protocols for the use of force when responding to incidents involving individuals with mental illness, disabilities, or who are exhibiting mental distress.

The OFL represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about the OFL’s Make It Fair campaign, visit www.makeitfair.ca.

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For further information:

 Ogho Ikhalo, OFL Interim Communications Director: 416-443-7665 or OIkhalo@ofl.ca

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