Crown's refusal to appeal Montsion decision 'cowardly,' says coalition

One of the groups protesting at an intersection near the University of Ottawa is condemning the Crown's 'cowardly' decision not to appeal the acquittal of Ottawa police Const. Daniel Montsion in the 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi.

Advocacy group one of several protesting at Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street

Demonstration against systemic racism sets up in downtown Ottawa

11 months ago
Vanessa Dorimain, co-chair of the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, says demonstrators at the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street are calling for changes to Ottawa’s police budget and policies. 1:14

One of the groups protesting at an intersection near the University of Ottawa is condemning the Crown's "cowardly" decision not to appeal the acquittal of Ottawa police Const. Daniel Montsion in the 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi.

"We are outraged but not surprised," said a press release from the Justice for Abdirahman coalition. 

"The Crown is a colonial institution with a history of genocide, racism and white supremacy against Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Canada." 

Abdi, a 37-year-old Black man, died following a confrontation with Ottawa police on July 24, 2016. Montsion was found not guilty of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon on Oct. 20 of this year.

The Crown confirmed its decision not to appeal the case to Radio-Canada Friday morning. 

"We do not believe Montsion's use of force against Abdirahman Abdi was justified under the law and believe that confidence in the criminal justice system has been undermined by the Crown's failure to appeal," the coalition's press release says. 

It also says the judge's decision failed to "meaningfully engage with evidence" that would have undermined the defence's case.

"The Crown's cowardly decision not to appeal officially sanctions police violence and white supremacy against Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and people with disabilities in Ottawa."

Dozens of people were at a protest camp in a central Ottawa intersection the morning of Nov. 20, 2020, calling for changes to the city's policies and budget. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The coalition is one of many advocacy groups that have been camped out at the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street since Thursday afternoon. They are also calling for changes to Ottawa's budget, police policies and more.

Protesters with The Day of Action for Anishinabeg and Black Lives say they plan to stay there until the city and police start talking to them about meaningful changes.

"At the end of the day, we want folks to be enraged that they have to take alternative routes," said Vanessa Dorimain, co-chair for Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition and one of the demonstration's organizers.

"We want folks to be uncomfortable. We want folks to be inconvenienced, because this is how we feel constantly living in this city and in this province and in this country."

List of demands

A list of 10 demands shared on social media by Justice for Abdirahman include calling upon city council to vote down a $13.2-million increase to the Ottawa police budget, changing police policies around dynamic entries and mental health call responses and ending racism in schools and the health-care system.

"We're standing hand in hand together against the injustice that happened within our communities, and also to show the city that we will not take any more police violence," said Ifrah Yusuf, co-chair of Justice for Abdirahman coalition and another organizer.

Canadians need to also be made aware that systemic racism is not something solely happening south of the border, said Dorimain.

While there was an outpouring of anger after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Dorimain said it's not the same when there's similar violence here in Canada.

"I think in Canada, especially, we act as if this doesn't exist ... but I mean, folks, it's right here. We're going through this every day right here. Be enraged at home because we're going through it here," she said.

"I think that it is a little bit disappointing that I feel like Canadians need to feel or need to see a boot on my neck in order for you to understand that racism is alive and well."

Vanessa Dorimain, co-chair for Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, told CBC last week the group planned to stay at the intersection until a dialogue was started with City of Ottawa officials and police about ending systemic violence and injustice. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Justice for Abdirahman also released a second press release on Friday, proclaiming its solidarity with the Indigenous community and the KZ Land Protectors, another group at the demonstration.

The coalition is also calling for an "immediate end to the occupation of any and all contested Indigenous territories by police forces, such as the ongoing occupation of Haudenosaunee lands by the OPP, and an end to weaponized injunctions against Indigenous land defenders."

1 injured Thursday

Organizers said one person suffered minor injuries when the driver of a car drove into a line of protesters Thursday afternoon, and were disappointed some people were so impatient they couldn't wait mere minutes.

They also said the response by police was slow.

"Police do not recognize us as an urgency. They do not protect our bodies. They do not care about our voice. They do not care about us and more importantly not meant to protect us," said Dorimain.

As of late afternoon Friday, Laurier Avenue was closed between Elgin Street and King Edward Avenue. Nicholas Street was closed from Daly Avenue to Highway 417, meaning drivers can't get off the highway at the Nicholas exit.

In an email to CBC, the Ottawa Police Service said they were on scene Friday morning directing traffic and "ensuring the safety of those involved."

Police said they were investigating Thursday's incident and that there was no timeline for ending the roadblocks.

Organizers say there's been an outpouring of support from the community who have donated a number of items, including food, coffee, tents and firewood. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


With files from Kimberley Molina and Joseph Tunney

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