Red flags in the Shafia case
The three Shafia sisters approached authorities on several occasions to complain about their strict and abusive home environment, and there were several incidents at the Shafia home that in retrospect could be seen as red flags and opportunities for intervention.
Below is a summary of some of those events:
May 2008: Sahar, 17 when she died, complains about her home life to the assistant principal at Antoine-de-St.-Exupery High School in Montreal and tells her she has been ostracized by her parents, that her brother Hamed has assaulted her with scissors and that the situation is so bad that she has attempted suicide. The case is referred to Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, and a social worker meets with Sahar, who begs her not to contact her parents and then recants her allegations upon hearing that her parents must be called. The Shafia parents are summoned to a meeting with the social worker and deny Sahar's allegations. At a follow-up meeting, Sahar tells the social worker the situation has improved, and the case is closed.
April 17, 2009: Zainab runs away to a women's shelter in Montreal, prompting her brother Hamed to call 911 twice to report her missing. Neighbours of the Shafias also call 911 on April 17, 2009, after the younger Shafia children, including Sahar and her younger sister Geeti, tell a person on the street that they are afraid to go home and fear how their father will react after learning of Zainab's absence.
When police arrive at the home, the younger sisters tell them they have been hit by their father and brother on several occasions, including for staying out late. They later recant their stories when police and a child welfare worker speak with them in the presence of their father. Police refer the case to child protection services. At least one officer believes there is enough evidence to lay charges, but that decision must be made by youth protection authorities.
Police also interview Zainab at the shelter, and she tells them she left the home because it was too strict.
April 20, 2009: A youth protection worker and a police investigator interview the younger Shafia children at Antoine-de-Saint-Exupery High School. At that time, the siblings report only one incident of Hamed Shafia using force and complain of a strict home environment. Geeti, 13 at the time of her death, tells police she wants to be placed in a foster home. Investigators decide there is not enough evidence to pursue the case.
Late April 2009: A school official summons the Shafia parents to express concern that Sahar and Geeti are frequently late or absent from class and that Geeti has accumulated 40 absences and is failing all of her classes. Sahar tells the official the girls are afraid to be in their home when their father is there.
May 2, 2009: Zainab returns home from the Passages women's shelter after her mother promises to allow her to wed Wahid, who is five years older than Zainab. The two wed on May 18 while Shafia is out of the country, but the marriage is annulled a day later.
May 2009: Geeti meets with a teacher and begs to be removed from the family home.
June 2009: One of Sahar's teachers calls child protection authorities after Sahar complains she is depressed and afraid that her father has found out she is dating a boy and will beat her. She meets with a social worker whom she asks to help her move out of her home as soon as she is legally allowed to. The social worker later testifies that Sahar was to have a followup meeting with the worker but did not show up.
June 5, 2009: Zainab phones 911 to say that Wahid is threatening to kidnap her. She later tells police she made the call at the request of her mother.
June 30, 2009: The bodies of the three sisters and their father's first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, are found in the Rideau Canal near Kingston, Ont.