Vigil held in honour of Mississauga man who died after being shot by Peel police
Family still waiting for answers five months after Jamal Francique, a Black man, was killed
About 300 people, many bringing signs and flowers, gathered in Mississauga's Celebration Square on Saturday to remember 28-year-old Jamal Francique and to demand justice for his death.
The vigil was organized by Justice For Jamal, a group of friends and community members who want to ensure Francique's case is not swept under the rug.
"The intention is to honour Jamal and to collectively curate a space to hold the Black grief we are experiencing, locally and globally," says Josh Lamers, who helped organize the event.
Among those in attendance was Francique's family. Speaking to the crowd, Francique's stepfather said he was a loving and compassionate young man who never held a grudge against anyone. His sister said he responded to every obstacle put in his path with resilience. Family members did not want to be named.
Organizers believe this is a critical time amidst a collective movement. Large rallies and protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality continue around the world in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police almost three weeks ago.
Author and activist Desmond Cole spoke at the vigil, reminding everyone of the systemic racism that exists within Canadian police forces.
"Everywhere we look in this country, it's the same story with police and Black and Indigenous people, and we are tired. But we are not defeated by any means," Cole said to those who gathered.
Rima Berns-McGown, MPP for Beaches-East York and a member of the NDP's Black Caucus, echoed those thoughts, adding "Let us make Jamal's legacy this moment that things begin to change."
Lamers said organizers wanted the vigil to give space for Francique's family and friends to "speak to the loving man that he was, a father of two children; and also to have community members and activists speak to this moment."
On Jan. 7, undercover officers from Peel Regional Police were investigating a vehicle for suspected drug activity at Southampton Drive and Eglinton Avenue in Mississauga.
Officers found Francique, who the SIU said was considered a person of interest, in the vehicle.
Police said he drove at the officers when they approached.
"One of the officers fired several shots at the vehicle, striking the driver. And the vehicle then drove into a garage in the townhouse complex just behind me," Const. Sarah Patten had told reporters at the scene of the crash.
The SIU did not mention Francique being armed in any of its releases.
He died in hospital two days later.
The province's Special Investigations Unit, which is called in whenever someone is injured or killed in a confrontation with police, assigned five investigators and two forensic investigators to the case.
Family members of Francique initially requested he not be named, but have since changed their minds.
"I think the request has shifted into wanting the public to know who Jamal was. Especially with the way Peel police engaged, shooting and killing him with a shot in the back of the head," Lamers said.
"This is a familiar kind of way, unfortunately, that Black people are killed."
Still waiting for answers
More than five months after the shooting, Ontario's police watchdog says it is still investigating the incident that took place on Jan. 7.
In an email to CBC News, the SIU says it has interviewed the officer who fired the shots, all eight witness officers, and two civilian witnesses.
It says evidence collected from the scene, including the officer's firearm, have been sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences for testing.
The SIU adds a post-mortem was conducted, but it is still awaiting the results.
Lamers says it's hard to fathom why the investigation is taking so long.
"(The family) is grieving. This is something that no one should ever have to make sense of. The family deserves a decision, and without one, it is prolonging certain kinds of experiences," Lamers says.
"But an even broader question is 'When will these kinds of anti-Black conditions finally end for Black people?'"