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Today from Hiiraan Online:
The Alberta connection: T.O. shootings have national implications for Somali community
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
BY TAREK FATAH
Did the shooting at the Eaton Centre have links to the drug wars in Alberta?
This was the first question that came to my mind when I heard the dead man, Ahmad Hassan, was from Alberta.
In fact, until his murder, Hassan was wanted in Fort McMurray for failing to appear in court on cocaine trafficking and other charges following his arrest in a 2010 police bust.
One of Hassan’s co-accused was 19-year-old Abdinasir Dirie from the Toronto area, who was killed three months later in a Fort McMurray apartment.
The victim’s father, Abdul Kadir Ali, told CBC News Hassan was a suspect in the death of his son. In the last few years, over 30 Somali-Canadians have been shot to death in gang-related drug wars in Alberta that have plagued the Somali community there.
Most of these cases have gone unsolved, with the police complaining about a lack of co-operation from witnesses and leaders of the Somali community complaining police haven’t done enough to develop contacts within their community.
In one of those cases, a good cop’s reputation was tainted because he wanted to get to the bottom of a gang-related killing.
On New Year’s Day last year, 23-year old Mohamud Jama was shot dead in an Edmonton club that was full of people, mostly Somali Canadian youth.
After the shooting, as reported by the CBC, veteran Edmonton homicide detective Bill Clark complained only one witness was willing to give a description of the suspect, even though the club was full of people.
In frustration, he said if the community wouldn’t co-operate, the police would move on to other cases.
That triggered Farhiya Warsame, wife of the murdered man, and Jama’s family, to file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Clark, demanding he be removed from the investigation.
Warsame said she was concerned the case would be forgotten if Clark was left in charge, but the result was that a detective who was trying to find the killer was unfairly portrayed as a racist.
The police force later apologized for Clark’s remarks, but the problem remains.
Police continue to have trouble solving these murders, in part because of a lack of co-operation from witnesses in obtaining information.
The Canadian Somali community is in a deep crisis in Alberta and it is in their interest, as well as ours in Ontario, that their young men don’t get dragged further into the pits of criminal culture.
The drug business in Alberta is worth over $5 billion annually. William Pitt, a former RCMP officer and now a professor of criminology at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton, says Somali-Canadians have been recruited by other gangs (such as the Hells Angels and aboriginal gangs) and are being used as low-level drug peddlers and mules to deliver drugs.
As he notes: “That makes them a disposable commodity — if the police get them, they don’t know much or have large quantities (of drugs) on them; and if they die… they are no loss to the gangs.” The Somali-Canadian community needs to stand up to these criminals in their midst.
Their leaders need to understand the police, in Alberta and Toronto, are their allies, not their adversaries.
And that critics of Somali drug runners are not racists.
This piece was originally published in the Toronto Sun on June 5, 2012
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