The death of a Somali Canadian at the hands of Ottawa police on Monday has sparked nationwide anger and protests by activists who say police violence against the black community is not solely an American problem.
Abdirahman Abdi, a 37-year-old immigrant from Somalia who neighbors said suffered an unspecified mental illness, died after a confrontation with police outside his apartment building. Witnesses said the police, responding to a harassment complaint, beat Abdi repeatedly with batons before handcuffing him.
Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Rodney Diverlus said police brutality against minorities often goes ignored in Canada. “The difference in Canada is that there’s a myth of inclusivity and there’s a myth that this thing doesn’t happen here because our police are less accountable to the public,” he said.
While BLM has had a presence in Canada since the protests in Ferguson, Mo., kick-started the movement in 2014, the recent killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota, as well as the shooting of Charles Kinsey in North Florida have inspired protests across Canada in solidarity with the American victims.
Abdi’s case is not the first time an unarmed minority has died at the hands of Canadian police. In Montreal, the 2008 killing of Fredy Villanueva, an 18-year-old native of Honduras, inspired protests and was one of several high-profile police shootings that led to the founding of an independent agency that investigates police violence.
In July 2015, a Toronto police officer fatally shot 45-year-old Andrew Loku, an immigrant from South Sudan with a history of mental illness, in his apartment building. The officer was not charged.
Perhaps most publicized was the 2013 death of Sammy Yatim, who was shot eight times and then Tasered after pulling a knife on a Toronto streetcar. The officer who shot him was found guilty of attempted murder in January.
SOURCE: Adam Kovac
Special for USA TODAY