Members of the Somali-Canadian community rocked by dozens of unsolved slayings in Ontario and Alberta are calling for a federal task force to investigate the homicides and for a strengthening of the witness protection program.
"This is an emergency," said Habiba Adan, whose son Warsame Ali, 26, was gunned down in Toronto last September. She spoke at Queen's Park on Tuesday on behalf of the grassroots Somali group Positive Change, along with Ontario MPP Mike Colle.
Colle, whose Eglinton-Lawrence riding includes a large Somali community, said at least 47 young Somali-Canadian males have been killed in Ontario and Alberta in the last 10 years, with few arrests made.
He presented a five-point action plan on behalf of Positive Change:
- A federal, judicial task force that would investigate how so many young people could be killed in Canada with no charges or arrests.
- A provincial-federal employment and opportunity program targeting Somali-Canadians.
- A push to target Somali-Canadians for employment opportunities with the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police.
- School boards, the Ontario Ministry of Education and Somali-Canadians to work together on education issues, including the historically high drop-out rate for Somali-Canadians.
- A strengthening of the witness protection program to encourage more witnesses to come forward.
Colle said it's important for all levels of government and police to get involved. "The present situation is a total failure," he said.
Colle said he'll be writing a letter to the RCMP, Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Ontario Attorney-General John Gerretsen in hopes of getting the plan started.
Adan said it's important for Canadians to realize that the issue is a Canadian one, not a Somali one. Most of the victims have been Canadian-born, and Adan noted that the killings affect health care, because of injuries and the mental toll it takes on the community.
She said her family has stopped being physically affectionate with one another since her son's death.
"Put yourself in my position, that in my house nobody hugs anymore, nobody kisses anymore," she said.