'We bury a lot of youth': Somali-Canadian community cries out for action after 2 fatal shootings

Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, and Zakariye Ali, 16, were both killed in two separate shootings in the Dixon Road and Islington Avenue area the week of Oct. 2. The Somali- Canadian community is now calling on police to put a stop to the violence.

2 fatal shootings in the Dixon Road, Islington Avenue area in less than a week sparks community response

Aya Nomar calls for justice following two fatal shootings in the Dixon Road and Islington Avenue area within a week. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

After two separate fatal shootings in the Dixon and Islington area within a week, frustrated members of the Somali- Canadian community in the neighbourhood came together Thursday to call for action to end the violence.

"We lose a lot of youth. We bury a lot of youth," said Aya Nomar, who spoke at the event. 

During the news conference, community members called on police, government and the media to do more following last week's shootings.

​Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, was shot in the middle of the day while sitting in his car on Oct. 5th. 

The soon-to-be father was later pronounced dead in hospital. 

Then on Sunday Oct. 8, police responded to a triple shooting.

A boy and two men with gunshot wounds were found in the parking lot of Kingsview Village Junior School. 

16-year-old Zakariye Ali, of Toronto, died in hospital of his injuries.

Nomar is mourning the loss of the teenager whom she said was best friends with her son. 

"I mean, all the Somali boys, they touch my heart but when you know the person and when they're part of you, it touches you," she said. 

Police and politics

Farhia Warsame, executive director of the Somali Women's and Children's Support Network, told the news conference shared that she too has been personally touched by violence in the community.

Farhia Warsame said the Dixon Road and Islington Avenue area is an 'underserved' and 'marginalized' community. (Martin Trainor/CBC News )

"I am also a victim. My son passed away and shot in 2015," she said.  

Warsame called for Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau to visit the area, which she says is lacking in supports for youth. 

"Mentoring programs, outreach programs, prevention programs, all of that is not happening in this area," she said. 

At the news conference Thursday, Warsame also acted as a translator for others who have also lost loved ones to violence.

Abdelrahim Mohamed's son Khadr Mohamed was found dead from a gunshot wound in August 2017. 

He questioned what police and the government are doing to control the flow of guns.

"What we cannot figure out is—how these teenage young children get the guns in their hands?" he said through Warsame.

Abdelrahim Mohamed holds a a picture of his son Khadr Mohamed, 22, who was found dead in Little Italy with a gunshot wound to the chest in August. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

Ward 2 Coun. Michael Ford attended the community meeting Thursday. 

"It's heart wrenching," he said.  

He is now calling for a meeting with police and city officials to improve safety in this neighbourhood.

"Gun violence just doesn't happen in North Etobicoke, it happens across the city and I think it's about us as city council, as a collective, to be addressing violence in our city," he said. 

No more labels

Community members also addressed the stigma that the neighbourhood is facing in light of of the violence.

"We don't need labelling. We are tired of labelling. We just need justice," Warsame said. 

On CBC Radio's Metro Morning, community leader Munira Abukar said she is also frustrated by how some people in other parts of the city are reacting to the shootings. 

"I like to call it a colour assumption---based on the colour you are, there's an assumption that you in a sense deserve to die," she said.

Ward 2 Coun. Michael Ford said police, schools and the Somali-Canadian community need to work together to create grassroots change. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

She says people are quick to assume that when shootings happen, the victims have somehting to do with their own deaths.

"No one wants to give you the benefit of the doubt and say, 'Maybe someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time.'"

Even in cases where the victim has had a criminal background, she said "assuming that young men deserve to die and do not even have the chance to fix their lives is also something that doesn't sit well with me." 

Abukar said she has come very close to being caught up in the violence. 

Once, she and her siblings had to come to the aid of a man who was shot. 

Another time she said shots rang out, just as she and her friend were supposed to be going out.

After two fatal shootings in her community, Munira Abukar said a lot of people 'feel like it's only going to get worse.'

"I got outside and saw the damage that her car had been shot multiple times, including where I would have been sitting."

She and her loved ones escaped injury or death that time but Abukar wonders what would have happened if that hadn't been the case.

She questions, "what would have been our legacy? What would we have been labelled as? 

She too is calling on local politicians to do more but in the meantime "you have to make the space safe for yourself," she said.

Hoping to come up with strategies to do that, Farhia Warsame is calling on the Somali-Canadian community to come together for a meeting on Saturday Oct. 14.


Makda Ghebreslassie

CBC Toronto reporter

Makda is a CBC Video-Journalist, who from time to time fills in as TV news anchor and a newsreader on Here and Now and Fresh Air. She worked in newsrooms in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor before moving back home to Toronto.

With files from Ali Chiasson