Saturday, April 25, 2015


The Latest News about Somalis in Canada.
Wararkii ugu danbeeyay ee Soomaalida ku nool wadanka Canada.

Ahmed Abbi, an apprentice with the Carpenters Union Local 27, is seen at their training centre in Vaughan, Ont., Wednesday, March 4, 2015. (Photos by Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and Mail

Earlier this spring, Ahmed Abbi, a 27-year-old Weston resident, was at a North York golf club, building lockers.

On its face, that modest job may not seem noteworthy. But for Mr. Abbi – who was born in Somalia, grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp and came here 14 years ago – the five-day gig marked two firsts: As a novice carpenter’s apprentice, he was earning $18.50 an hour – “the most I ever got in Toronto,” he says.

Mr. Abbi was also the first Somali-Canadian to work in the Carpenters Union Local 27.

His position, however, was also early evidence of a much more ambitious plan by Metrolinx and a network of labour and community groups to train people from high-needs neighbourhoods to work in construction, and then compel the contractors building mega-projects like the Eglinton Crosstown to hire them.

That strategy, known as a community benefits agreement (CBA), is also generating interest at City Hall. On Monday, the executive committee will consider a motion by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to have city officials look at using CBAs on all large infrastructure and development projects as a means of creating better economic opportunities for low-income residents, and especially young people, like Mr. Abbi. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne publicly endorsed CBAs last year.

In theory, the idea of leveraging huge works contracts to produce social benefits seems appealing. But in practice, it’s hardly a straightforward proposition.

The story of how Mr. Abbi connected with that carpentry training program traces to the aftermath of the gang-related Danzig Street shootings in 2012. At that time, a network of trade-union officials and community workers began to talk about getting unemployed youth into construction jobs on the city’s transit projects. Such opportunities, they reckoned, could counter the lure of crime in priority neighbourhoods, like Kingston Galloway.

“The objective is to make sure that the construction work force better reflects the diversity of the city of Toronto,” says organizer Steve Shallhorn, executive director of the Labour Education Centre.

After two years of negotiations, that group, now known as the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), persuaded Metrolinx to formally require firms bidding for the $4-billion Eglinton Crosstown project, as well as the Sheppard and Finch LRTs, to hire in the city’s neediest areas. With a decade of work ahead, these transit mega-projects will yield hundreds of jobs.

ahmed abbiThe winning consortia will have to develop an “apprenticeship plan,” including “a focused program for youth-at-risk, historically disadvantaged groups in local communities including low-income, racialized and immigrant populations, and military veterans,” say RFP documents obtained by The Globe and Mail. The builders must target their recruitment efforts in communities affected by the transit construction and provide annual updates.

The tricky part, as Mr. Shallhorn acknowledges, is identifying the young people who’d benefit, training them and then persuading construction unions to take on minorities, women and newcomers – in short, individuals like Mr. Abbi, who traditionally have had little presence on work sites.

The social stakes are high: While CBAs have delivered thousands of stable construction jobs to minorities in U.S. cities, it remains to be seen whether the TCBN’s efforts will yield similar results here.

Like thousands of Somali-Canadians, Mr. Abbi has struggled to gain a foothold in Toronto’s labour force. Some turned to drug-dealing and gangs, while most subsist on a diet of low-wage jobs.

Though Mr. Abbi got into an international-relations program at the University of Toronto, he couldn’t stay in school because he had to support his family, both here and in Somalia. He cycled through menial jobs, then went to Fort McMurray. The money was good, but the work didn’t last. He came back last year.

“You’ve got to make ends meet,” muses Mr. Abbi, whose best job before the golf-club contract was a two-month, $14-an-hour stint as a telemarketer.

At the same time, TCBN members were searching for community organizers in four priority neighbourhoods, including Mt. Dennis-Weston. The search took them to Women for Change, a shoestring parenting organization on Jane Street.

The objective is to make sure that the construction work force better reflects the diversity of the city of Toronto.
Steve Shallhorn, Toronto Community Benefits Network

TCBN hired Nasteeha Dirie, a volunteer for the group, and asked her to drum up prospective candidates. Ms. Dirie came from Somalia 23 years ago and studied accounting, but has spent her career in community work.

After asking women who drop by her agency if their husbands or sons needed work, she collected lots of names, among them Mr. Abbi’s.

Last fall, TCBN invited them to information sessions. Ms. Dirie’s candidates were screened for education and credentials. They met with trade union reps, who explained how journeymen could earn $80,000 to $100,000 a year – many times more than someone working for $18.50 an hour. Drawing on provincial funding, TCBN arranged upgrading courses, training programs and apprenticeships.

Of the hundred who turned up to one session, almost none had registered with provincial agencies, meaning they didn’t even appear in local unemployment stats. They were, says Mr. Shallhorn, exactly the population TCBN wanted to reach: able-bodied individuals trapped in a cycle of marginal, temporary jobs.

ahmed abbi 2Mr. Abbi attended another such session at a restaurant on Dixon Road. There, he met Chris Campbell, a business agent for the Carpenters who was helping TCBN. Impressed with Mr. Abbi, Mr. Campbell urged him to enroll in courses offered through the union’s Vaughan training centre and forge connections with other carpenters and contractors who can provide leads.

Mr. Campbell also gave Mr. Abbi advice. He’d been the only African-Canadian in his training class, and came in for racist taunting. (Mr. Abbi has faced harsh remarks about Somali pirates or Islamic extremism.) But, as he told Mr. Abbi, he also had mentors. Mr. Campbell is paying it forward. “Guys opened doors for me.”

Mr. Abbi has followed Mr. Campbell’s counsel: “You’ve got to network, and smile for everybody. You’ve got to push it better than anyone else because you already stand out.”

But TCBN organizers know that Mr. Abbi, and others like him, have to make ends meet while completing their training so they can have a shot at those Crosstown jobs. Since the golf club gig ended, Mr. Abbi has taken on two other short-term carpentry/construction gigs, including one he got through connections he’d made while on the job.

Ms. Dirie says the city and the province should provide support by offering recruits from low-income areas with Metropasses or short-term assistance during their training. “The one thing we learned is that these people are hungry for work.”

In Toronto, the only major project to date that involved a CBA was the Regent Park redevelopment. Toronto Community Housing Corp. made local hiring a requirement, resulting in 600 jobs for area residents. Ms. Wong-Tam says the tactic has huge potential and cites multibillion-dollar projects in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco that involved CBAs and generated thousands of jobs for residents of economically deprived communities.

Mr. Abbi, who stays in touch with Mr. Campbell, is “really appreciative” as he continues his apprenticeships and waits for the real Metrolinx construction jobs to start rolling out. “I’m lucky because I found this guy,” he says of Mr. Campbell. “Basically, I’m just hoping for the best. I have my fingers crossed that it works out.”

CBC – The man who died during a police shooting in Vancouver on April 9has been identified as Abdi Gani Mahamud Hirsi, aged 26, from Edmonton, Alberta.

The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed Hirsi was shot during an encounter with Vancouver Police near the intersection of Hastings and Gore Streets in the downtown east side of Vancouver.

Members of the Somali community have protested the shooting, saying police could used other means to subdue Hirsi.

They are have announced they plan to hold a funeral for Hirsi at the B.C. Muslim Association Mosque at 7220 124 St., in Surrey Tuesday at 1:20 p.m. PT.

That will be followed by a candlelight vigil in front of First United Church on East Hastings near Gore Avenue at 5:00 p.m. Hirsi’s mother and family will attend the funeral and the candlelight vigil, said organizers.

Stabbing rampage left 3 injured

Police say they shot and killed Hirsi during a stabbing rampage after he refused to drop his knife and began stabbing a woman right in front of them.

According to police, officers first tried to subdue the man by firing bean-bag rounds at him, but then said they shot him after he randomly began stabbing a woman

The woman was hospitalized in critical condition, while the two other victims were treated for non life-threatening injuries.

The Independent Investigations Office is looking into the shooting death and has collected security video that captured images of the man killed fighting with — and ultimately stabbing — two of his victims.

Several videos have been posted online showing the tense situation between police and the man with the knife from different angles.


Photos of Vigil in Kenya and Abdi Chireh, a Somali who grew up in Vancouver before moving to Kenya. Photos by Elizabeth McSheffrey

Vancouver Observer –

Since the start of Kenya’s war against the Somalia-based terror of Al-Shabaab,Somalis in Kenya – even those who hold Kenyan citizenship – have come under fire for Islamist attacks.

In Eastleigh, a Somali enclave in the heart of the capital, Nairobi, many Somalis have been called “terrorists,” “aliens,” “Al-Shabaab,” or worse as police officers haul them off buses, check their identification, demand corruption money or arrest without charge.

Most have learned to “deal” with this reality since the start of Kenya’s occupation in Somalia in 2011, but on April 2, Al-Shabaab carried out the worst terrorist attack on Kenyan soil in over 15 years. More than 150 people were killed at Garissa University College, most of whom were Christian students.

Somalis in Kenya – particularly in Eastleigh – are now terrified that aggressive behaviour towards them will escalate in light of the recent massacre. In the days since the attack, the bustling suburb has become rather vacant as residents clear the streets before dark in fear of harassment from local police.

“I see it on people’s faces,” says Abdi Chireh, a 35-year-old Somali from Mogadishu who grew up in Kitsilano, Vancouver. He’s sitting in the very same Nairobi restaurant where just last week, a Kenyan server refused to take his order without the insistence of his Kenyan and Caucasian company.

“It’s not as busy here (in Eastleigh) as it used to be and people go home at 4 p.m. They don’t go out as much, they don’t take taxis as much and you’ll find a lot of flats empty.”

Chireh, who holds Canadian citizenship, has had family in Kenya since the early 1990s, and rents property in Nairobi as a way to support them. He splits his time between Nairobi and Vancouver, where his fiancée and daughter live, but his First World passport and fluent English aren’t enough to stop harassment in Nairobi, which is frequently based on ethnicity alone.

“I can tell the police are discriminating those of Somali descent,” he says, wearing a bright green UBC T-shirt.

“A lot of people leave (Kenya) and never want to come back – now I understand why.”

In Kenya, Somalis make up a minority of 2.3 million people, roughly 6 per cent of the total population. Many of them were born in Kenya, have never been to Somalia, or like Chireh, can barely carry a conversation in Somali.

Since 2012, the Canadian national has been “slapped around,” jailed, pulled over and forced to pay bribes during visits to Kenya, and on a number of occasions, police have threatened to say he is “Al-Shabaab” unless he coughs up a considerable sum of cash. Last week, officers arrested his 15-year-old nephew Abdul Guled, who was riding in the passenger seat of Kenyan friend’s car when they threw him in their trunk and detained him for 45 minutes.

“It makes me mad, but oh well,” says Guled, who has joined his uncle at the table. “I want to go outside and stay out long, but I don’t want to get arrested by the cops.” Guled, an American-Somali currently studying in Nairobi, suffers from strict house rules because of his ethnicity.

In the last two years, Al-Shabaab has killed more than 400 people on Kenyan soil, often citing Kenya’s “unspeakable atrocities” against ethnic Somalis and East African Muslims as the reason for their brutal retaliation.

It’s hard not to point fingers in the wake of such tragedy, says Kenyan human rights activist Boniface Mwangi, but after the Garissa attack, the country and government must resist the urge to play the ethnoreligious blame game. The result of such a mistake would be to alienate the Kenyan-Somali population further, which could even provide incentive for Islamic radicalization in parts of Kenya.

“The government has to be very, very careful how they respond this time around, because if they profile people, it’s going to backfire,” he explains. “Al-Shabaab – murderers and terrorists – will find a way to say Kenya is discriminating against Somalis.” Kenyans and their representatives he says, must address the Garissa attack through a discourse of criminality rather than one that creates an ethnic or religious divide.

“It’s about Kenyans who were killed – full stop – and that’s what the narrative should be,” he adds. “So the government should control the language of their response.”

But now, one week after the attack, Kenya is off to a rather rough start.

On April 6, government officials called for the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa District, which houses hundreds of thousands of Somalis fleeing conflict across the border, and on Wednesday, they froze more than 80 bank accounts with suspected Al-Shabaab connections. Many of them were ‘hawalas,’ Somali money-transfer systems that Kenyan-Somalis depend on for business and family support. In Eastleigh, the police crackdown has already begun, despite its residents having held an anti-Al-Shabaab demonstration last Saturday in solidarity with the Garissa victims.

Even if these measures aren’t aimed at persecuting Somalis directly, for those affected, it’s difficult to make that distinction.

“We’re not part of Al-Shabaab,” says Abdi Kareem, a 21-year-old Kenyan-born Somali who has never been to Somalia, “but they generalize us and there’s no freedom here.” He sits outside a soda shop in Eastleigh, where his friends nod their heads in agreement.  “The government has not set a curfew, but we have set it on ourselves,” he continues. “We fear (police) harassment, even in broad daylight.”

There is no law in Kenya that permits racial discrimination or profiling under any circumstance, yet the problem has become systematic within the police force, hand-in-hand with cash corruption. Kenyan Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka says the act is illegal in every circumstance, but didn’t deny that it happens regularly. Those with complaints about police harassment should file them he says, and each will be evaluated on an individual basis.

“I will revert to other places where these kinds of things happen,” Njoka explains. “After the (Charlie Hebdo) attack in Paris, there were incidents of West Africans being there and harassed by people. It’s not like we target Somalis… but it becomes very difficult to file them all in a different name.”

To the average Somali, this sounds like a very poor excuse.

“When one person does something wrong to you, you can’t judge the whole race,” Chireh insists, enjoying a bowl of popcorn in the restaurant’s coffee room with his nephew, Guled. “I just want to leave, but at the same time that’s what they want me to do, and I’m not just going to be chased away. I want to make sure I’m treated equally.”

Chireh will return to Vancouver eventually he says, but for now, he will stay in Nairobi to stick this out with family and friends.



EDMONTON (Global News) — Edmonton police have confirmed the death of a man earlier this week was a homicide.

muslim canadians

CBC News – “I’m a Muslim. I’m labelled a terrorist. I trust you, do you you trust me? Give me a hug.”

That’s what Mustafa Mawla’s handwritten signs read as he stood in Toronto’s Dundas Square on a frigid day in January. 

It was part of a social experiment he and a group of young Muslim-Canadian filmmakers undertook to explore their feelings in a country where politicians are ramping up the talk about fighting terrorism.

muslim canadiansStanding there blindfolded, arms outstretched, waiting for hugs on a busy street corner, Mawla wondered if they would ever come.

“I was thinking that most of the time I would be left standing there, that people are going to walk by and that I am going to be cold,” he says.

Mawla and fellow young Muslims know Canadians’ safety in the era of ISIS is about to become a ballot-box issue and they’re nervous, not necessarily about terrorism, but about hate and suspicion.

They have a request for Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Ease up on the rhetoric.

“I would ask him to to take it easy with the words ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorism’ and scaring people that there are jihadis or terrorists among us,” says Assma Galuta, a university student who conceived the “Give me a hug” project and hopes one day to do humanitarian work abroad.

“There are unstable citizens from any faith, any religion, but to target Islam and scare your own citizens… [Harper is] creating a barrier between a lot of people.”

Galuta doesn’t just talk theoretically. The changes she has witnessed in Canada have been swift and at times cruel.

She maintains she lost friends after the attacks on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in October, which were perpetrated by a man thought to have been sympathetic to Islamic extremism. 

 ‘Kill the terrorists’

One friend, a Canadian soldier, was so angry after the shootings that he told her it was time to “go and kill the terrorists.” 

She says she tried to talk calmly with him, but he said, “What your people are doing is wrong.”

Your people. That hurt, she says.

Galuta says she has stopped wearing her headscarf. That’s a big deal. She wore it from the age of nine, but now feels targeted because of it.

“As a woman walking home alone at night, it’s one thing to be scared about. But with the scarf on, it’s traumatizing,” she says.

These 20-something Canadians are smart, eloquent, well-read and deeply passionate, but they all agree they are now more careful about expressing their opinions, especially about Canada’s foreign policy or the way this government is handling threats of domestic terrorism. 

Parents are concerned

Maaz Khan, a university student, says his parents are particularly concerned. 

“They don’t want us to get hurt, or us to feel unsafe when we go to school or anywhere. They want us to be safe, that’s why they want us to stay away from these [topics],” he says. 

Mawla’s parents have offered similar cautions. 

“When we go out, my mom tells me, ‘Don’t go out of your way and say things, do things against the media and stuff because if it is taken out of context, then you will be in trouble. The police will say, “Oh, you said this before, so you might be doing this.”‘ Taken out of context, [any commentary] can be used any way.”

It doesn’t feel like the Canada they grew up in. Of that Galuta seems certain.

The good news, however, is that sometimes human kindness wins over fear. It did on the day of the experiment in Dundas Square. 

Mawla, who thought he’d be left standing alone, was hugged — repeatedly. 

One man even stopped his car in the intersection, ran to him, gave him a big bear hug and got back into his car. 

That’s the Canada these young Muslims love and want to defend.



CBC News — It is thought that another man from Edmonton has been recruited to join ISIS, CBC News has learned.

Omar Aden is in his mid-twenties. He was living in Edmonton before leaving in the summer of 2013 to study Islam in Egypt, members of the city’s Somali community told CBC News.

Several months later, he called his family from Syria.

A relative said Aden previously worked in Fort McMurray, where the family believes he may have fallen in with extremists and was radicalized. 

If confirmed, the man would be the fourth person from Edmonton’s Somali community to join ISIS overseas. Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton, said it shows Canada must do more to address radicalization in its borders.

“There are about 160 Canadians who have left Canada to go out and be part of this terrorizing group,” he said.

“So, we need to look, all of us, into the mirror and say ‘why did we lose those youth and see what could we have done better?’”

Earlier this year, CBC reported three cousins who had been living in Edmonton were killed while fighting for ISIS. According to the father of one of the men, the trio left for Syria in October 2013 and were killed a year later.

Last month, CBC News reported that a young woman who is believed to have joined group was radicalized by someone in Edmonton.

Police look for a person of interest related to a potential threat that forced the closure of the Mic Mac Mall on Tuesday.
Police look for a person of interest related to a potential threat that forced the closure of the Mic Mac Mall on Tuesday.
Police look for a person of interest related to a potential threat that forced the closure of the Mic Mac Mall on Tuesday.

AFP – OTTAWA-Police arrested two men and a woman in a raid Tuesday over a “potential threat” to a mall near Canada’s port city of Halifax, home to the navy’s Atlantic fleet.

It comes after security officials last month warned shoppers in Canada, the United States and Britain to be on guard after an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group posted a video calling for attacks on Western malls.

Halifax Police Constable Pierre Bourdages said a “heavy police presence” was dispatched to the Mic Mac Mall in the Halifax suburb of Dartmouth and the mall was closed for the day, although investigators said the threat had not been confirmed.

Officers raided a small bungalow in connection with the threat, but a suspect was absent and “no dangerous substances” or firearms were found, Bourdages told AFP.

A short time later, an apartment in another part of Halifax was raided and three people — two men and a woman — were taken into custody.
Police said they “have been actively investigating the matter to determine the validity of the threat and to this point no threat has been confirmed.”

The Al-Shabaab militant group last month specifically threatened the Mall of America in the US state of Minnesota, Canada’s massive West Edmonton Mall, London’s famous Oxford Street and two malls in France.

Also last month, an American woman and a Canadian man were arrested and charged with plotting a Valentine’s Day massacre at another mall in Halifax.

A third suspect was found dead at his parents’ home.

Jaamac is hosting a new television show called Somalis in Alberta which airs Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on Omni TV. Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal
Jaamac is hosting a new television show called Somalis in Alberta which airs Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on Omni TV. Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal
Jaamac is hosting a new television show called Somalis in Alberta which airs Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on Omni TV. Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal

Edmonton Journal – EDMONTON – People in Alberta’s Somali community will hear their own stories in their own voices on a Somali-language television news program airing Sundays, says the show’s host.

The half-hour Omni television show, called Somalis in Alberta, started in September. Organizers hope to expand the Somali-language program to an hour-long show, said Jaamac, 38, who does not use a last name. Somalis in Alberta is looking for a venue that could hold 60 to 80 people for a talk-show format, said Jaamac, who also hosts a radio show on CJSR called Somalis in Edmonton.

“It’s a kind of identity. Having your own radio and your own TV in the city means you live here. And it’s important for people to tell their story rather than hearing it from someone else,” Jaamac said. “The mainstream media covers (the community) mainly only when there’s a crisis, when there’s something negative happening … So telling successes and showcasing our own stories is something Somali media can do much better than the other media. Seeing ourselves talking about our own issues will be much more helpful.”

About six years ago, Edmonton’s Somali community was rocked by a string of murders that were in the news.

In January, three cousins from Edmonton’s Somali-Canadian community were reportedly killed while fighting overseas for ISIS last fall.

And a week ago, Edmonton police announced they are working with Somali-Canadians and other local Muslim groups to protect against terrorist attacks after a video from Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabaab threatened West Edmonton Mall.

Edmonton’s Somali community organized an event Sunday afternoon at the Central Lions Seniors Recreation Centre, 11113 113 St., to raise funds to support the new TV show and to celebrate the Somali radio show’s 10th anniversary.

Organizers hoped to raise about $20,000 for the Somalis in Alberta TV show, Jaamac said.

“In terms of the TV, this is the only Alberta-wide African TV, and this is the only Somali TV in Edmonton and Alberta,” Jaamac said. “And the radio, we are the only community-based show in the city.”

About 20,000 Somali Canadians live in Edmonton, and close to 35,000 in Alberta, said Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton. There are about 200,000 Somalis living in Canada, he said.

The society recently conducted a year-long research project and one of its findings was that Somali youth saw negative images of themselves portrayed in the media, Ibrahim.

“So one of the things we are planning to do is to showcase the good things that a lot of youth are doing, in terms of going to school and so on,” Ibrahim said. “So this kind of media could be used to increase the portrait of the successful youth and use that as a means of motivating other youth as well.”

Alberta’s Somali community has grown rapidly because of a strong economy that attracts workers, Bashir Ahmed, executive director of the Somali Canadian Education and Rural Development Organization.

Jaamac, who hosts the TV and radio shows as a volunteer, has been pushing for a long time to create a Somali TV show to connect the community, Ahmed said.

“He’s a great guy and he persisted,” Ahmed said. “We are very pleased now to have this kind of community TV.”

Somalis in Alberta airs Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on Omni TV and is rebroadcast Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 8:30 a.m.

Anwar Hared grew up playing hockey in Canada, which instantly made him the star of the rookie bandy team cobbled together among the expat Somali community in Sweden.
Anwar Hared grew up playing hockey in Canada, which instantly made him the star of the rookie bandy team cobbled together among the expat Somali community in Sweden.
Anwar Hared grew up playing hockey in Canada, which instantly made him the star of the rookie bandy team cobbled together among the expat Somali community in Sweden.

Toronto Star – In Newmarket, Anwar Hared was just another minor league hockey player: average, albeit enthusiastic. In Khabarovsk, a sprawling city in Russia’s frigid Far East, the 18-year-old solidified his position as the star of Somalia’s national bandy team.

“I’ve never had a better trip in my life,” Hared says from his parents’ Newmarket home. “Once you put the flag on your chest, it’s a fight to the death.”

Hared just returned home from the 35th Bandy World Championship in Khabarovsk, which runs through March.

Don’t know what bandy is? Think ice hockey with a ball instead of a puck, on a rink the size of a soccer field. Popular in the Nordic and former Soviet states, this fast-paced sport is dominated by Russia and Sweden.

In five games, Hared’s team scored three goals and allowed 63 on net, putting them dead last out of 17 teams. But consider that three years ago, Hared was the only member of the team who knew how to skate. All of them, Hared says, had the time of their lives in Russia.

“Most of my teammates were born in Somalia,” Hared says. “99 per cent of them have experienced the trauma of war.”

“Just to see the players participate in a world cup . . . was great,” team manager Cia Embretsen says. “The players were treated as heroes and idols.”

The unlikely story of Somalia’s national bandy team begins in late 2012 in Borlänge, Sweden, an industrial town 200 km northwest of Stockholm. Fleeing war and poverty, Somalis now number roughly 3,000 out of Borlänge’s population of over 40,000. As elsewhere in Europe, an influx of African and Middle Eastern migrants has sparked an upsurge in far-right politics in this historically liberal state.

Contemplating this, local businessman Patrik Andersson got it in his head that bandy would be the perfect way to bring Swedes and Somalis together. The Federation of International Bandy, the sport’s governing body, and Somalia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports loved the idea. Players — mostly teens and twenty-somethings who were born in Somalia — were drawn from a local Somali soccer team, and spent nearly a year training before the 34th Bandy World Championship in January 2014.All of this, however, was happening unbeknown to Hared.

Hared’s parents left their beleaguered nation for Canada five years before their son was born. Like many Canadians, Hared grew up playing hockey.

In late 2013, he got a call from a family friend in Sweden.

Soft-spoken, with a broad, easy smile, Hared laughs at the memory. “They asked me if I wanted to play bandy…I’d never even heard of the sport.”

Hared, of course, said yes. The friend contacted the team. They were thrilled: a Canadian ringer! In less than three weeks, Hared, a Grade 12 student at the time, found himself on a plane to Sweden. He spent one day practising with his new teammates and then flew to Russia for their first international tournament.

Those first games were both rough and fun. The players, still wobbly on their skates, kept wiping out as they dashed madly after the ball. But they played with heart. Hared managed to score the team’s first ever goal: a brilliant five-hole shot, right between a German goalkeeper’s legs. Somalia would go on to lose that game 22-1. The team only managed to score three goals in the 2014 tournament. Two of them were Hared’s.

“I don’t want to be cocky or anything,” Hared says sheepishly, “but they think I’m the team’s offensive weapon.”

Emretsen, one of the team’s managers, agrees.

“Anwar was the team’s star and a great asset… both on and off the ice,” she says.The team lost all of their games in 2014, finishing dead last behind a Winnipeg-based Canadian team that did not compete in 2015. This year, Hared was back in Russia for the team’s second international tournament, scoring one goal in a bout against China.

“I’d say that was my best game.”

Fans and other players were nothing but encouraging, Hared says. Spectators, he says, cheered disproportionately for the Somali underdogs, and the team even attracted a group of diehard Russian superfans who followed them wherever they’d go. They did, however, get more than a few curious looks in Khabarovsk.

“A lot of them had never seen African people before,” Hared laughs. “We had to pose for a lot of photos.”

A first-year economics student at Queen’s University, Hared says most of his peers have no idea what he’s been up to in Russia. Humble to the core, he says he’d like to keep it that way. In Somalia, however, he’s become something of a minor celebrity — the Facebook friend requests don’t stop. Hared even features prominently in a documentary about the Somali bandy team called Trevligt Folk (or “Nice People” in English) currently playing in Swedish cinemas.

Hared dreams of being able to help rebuild the country his parents fled, as a development worker, and plans to take his first trip to Somalia this summer. He’ll also be front and centre on the ice for the 36th Bandy World Championship in 2016.

“Obviously, a championship is out of the question, but we’d love to win a game next year,” he says.

“I want people to realize that despite the war, good things do happen in Somalia.”


A bright pink ball replaces a puck in this fast-paced sport, usually played outdoors on ice the size of a soccer field (about four times the size of an NHL rink). Teams field 10 players and a stickless goalkeeper who has to use his body and gloved hands to stop balls travelling upwards of 150 km/h from entering a net 2.1 metres high and 3.5 metres wide — more than three times the size of those used by the NHL. Players use hooked sticks and usually play two halves of 45 minutes each. Rules are similar to ice hockey, though most physical contact is banned.

Bandy might seem obscure, but hundreds of thousands of amateurs play in Russia and Nordic nations. Championship games in Russian and Swedish leagues can attract tens of thousands of spectators, and players can even net six-figure salaries.

Bandy’s rules were formalized in Britain in the late 19th century. As hockey spread across North America in the same period, bandy took root in Eastern Europe. It quickly became a national sport in Russia, where it’s sometimes known as “Russian hockey” (as opposed to “Canadian hockey”). Our version of hockey only took off in Russia in the mid 20th century. Soviet athletes soon excelled at the sport, thanks to their years playing on bandy’s oversized rinks.

Bandy was a demonstration sport in the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. Russia had lobbied to have it included in the 2014 Sochi Games, but their bid failed because too few nations actually play the sport.

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 3.49.08 AM

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 3.49.08 AMGlobal News — EDMONTON — Edmonton’s large Somali community is “disgusted” and “insulted” to be mentioned in a recent video allegedly released by Somali-based extremist group Al-Shabab.

“This group is known to have caused a lot of destruction and death back in Somalia,” said Jibril Ibrahim, the president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton. “They are despised both inside and outside [of Somalia].”

“This is kind of an act of desperation on their side,” he added.

“Mentioning our name in one of the threats they are making is kind of disgusting and an insult to our community.”

The video, posted Saturday to a YouTube account allegedly linked to Al-Shabab, encourages an attack on West Edmonton Mall. The more than hour-long video discusses the September 2013 attack by the al Qaeda-linked terror group at a Kenya mall that lasted days and left more than 60 people dead.

In the video’s last few minutes, a man with his face covered speaks in perfect English, appealing for the viewer to “imagine” the scope of destruction possible. He then lists shopping malls that could be targets, including the Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall.

“We call on our Muslim brothers, particularly those in the West, to answer the call of Allah and target the disbelievers,” says the man in the video. “The disbelievers have no right whatsoever to rejoice in the safety of their lands until safety becomes a reality in Palestine and all the lands of Islam.”

The video has yet to be authenticated by any major law enforcement agency, but the RCMP is aware of the threats made against the mall in the video and is investigating.

“There is no evidence at this time of any specific or imminent threat to Canadians,” RCMP Staff Sgt. Brent Meyer said Sunday morning. “We take any threat to our country’s national security very seriously.”

Ibrahim says the Somali community in Edmonton has been working with police and spoke with them Sunday. The EPS said all threats against public safety are taken very seriously but that there is no imminent threat to Edmontonians or Canadians.

“The discussion that we had with the police department is that we also have to do our best to take whatever precautions that we need to take,” said Ibrahim. “On the community level, we’re doing our best to make sure that no inappropriate activity takes place.”

“We share information within the community and the police. We work together on two fronts. When they hear something they let us know. When we hear something, we let them know as well.”

The Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton website states Canada is home to one of the largest Somali populations in the Western world, with as many as 20,000 Somalians living in Edmonton.

Edmonton mayor Don Iveson released a statement saying Edmontonians should feel confident the city is safe, and people should not overreact. He also said it’s “equally concerning to hear the appeal directed toward a specific group.”

“For this kind of group to come out and use our name here in Edmonton is kind of insulting,” echoed Ibrahim. “We don’t anticipate anybody acting on any threat from those kinds of groups.”

“All the Somalis from our community from Edmonton, Alberta are hard-working people.

“They are part of the fabric and trying to make Canada the best place. They’re not here to try to cause damage to anyone.”

University of Alberta political science professor Tom Butko feels people should balance vigilance with calm.

“This is a serious situation, but at the end of the day, I think people need to take that vigilance but also realize that they need to live their lives and not let fear encompass everything.

“The terrorists win and that’s really true if we’re living our lives in fear.”

(Source: Global News)



Calgary Herald – Calgary has lost a legendary business man, restaurant owner and personality.

Marco Abdi, owner of Italian restaurant La Brezza in Bridgeland for about 30 years, died of lung cancer on Sunday in a Calgary hospital. He was 59. A public memorial service and celebration of his life is being planned.

“My father’s kind, compassionate, and strong legacy perseveres within the countless lives he touched each day he lived on this earth. His million-dollar smile and amazing personality will be greatly missed. My family and I could not have imagined a greater father, husband, friend and role model even if we tried,” said his daughter Madina.

Over the years, the restaurant has hosted luminaries including movie and rock stars, top business executive, as well as top political leaders.

Marco Abdi ran popular Italian restaurant La Brezza for a number of years in Bridgeland.
Marco Abdi ran popular Italian restaurant La Brezza for a number of years in Bridgeland.

Abdi came from humble beginnings. He left his home in Somalia in the late 1970s to work in Rome as a caretaker in a restaurant. He came to Calgary in 1980 and worked as a janitor in a professional medical building across the street from where his Italian restaurant now resides. At that time, he was making $800 a month and thought “it was a big deal,” he told the Herald years ago.

His big smile, which always greeted customers to his restaurant, was infectious. No matter what day it was, you were bound to hear Marco say “Merry Christmas” in a conversation with him. You could say it was his mantra.

“People wait until Dec. 25 to call you and say ‘Merry Christmas,’ ” Abdi told the Herald several years ago.

“For me, every day is Merry Christmas. My father told me that you are born with nothing and you die with nothing and every day between is Christmas. When you die you’re not going to take anything with you. My gift to you is happiness.”

He leaves behind his wife Filomena as well as children Madina, 24, Khadija, 22, and Maurizio, 13.

Besides his restaurant, Abdi also had business interests in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates in the Middle East through his connection and friendship with the Royal Family there.

Yousef Traya, of the family-owned Bridgeland Market and Tazza Deli & Grill just down the street from La Brezza, said the family met Abdi in 1981 and he became like an uncle to the children.

“That’s the personal side. On the business side, he kind of put Bridgeland on the map in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” said Traya. “All of his charity work . . . He always had that million-dollar smile. He was amazing. He could have probably opened up another La Brezza anywhere else in the city after he got big but he stuck to what he did, lived in the neighbourhood, raised his family in the neighbourhood and he was always around the neighbourhood. You always saw him. He winked and smiled at everybody when he drove by.

“He did a lot for the community. Volunteered. There wasn’t a person that he wouldn’t help out. He was the type of person that if he saw a homeless guy picking out of the garbage, he would make him a bowl of pasta . . . The odds were always against him but he always came out on top. I look at him and what he did and what he went through to do what he did, it’s an inspiration to all.”

John Gilchrist, a well-known restaurant reviewer, said Abdi’s character was one of the reasons La Brezza was so successful over the years.

“He was such an indomitable force of nature. This positive, high energy, irrepressible guy who was just out there to be of service and to give the best that he possibly could every single day,” said Gilchrist. “I never saw him without a smile on his face. Never saw him without an offer of a coffee or a glass of wine or some food. He was just the ultimate sort of restaurateur wanting to serve his clients all the time.”

One of Abdi’s last wishes was that he wanted to be buried according to the Muslim custom. That took place on Monday.

Abdi’s brother-in-law, business partner in UAE ventures and a best friend, Domenic Buonincontri, said the family is trying to decide what to do with the restaurant.

“We’re discussing that right now,” he said. “What I really wanted is that it stayed in the family but the challenge there is that Marco was such a huge part of the goodwill of that restaurant. We’re trying to get our heads around how that all works.

“It truly is a family legacy. Most of those recipes are my mom’s . . . The hard part is the actual day-to-day operations. The family is discussing the options.”

Buonincontri said Abdi’s legacy is his relationships he built over the years.

“He was very caring and very giving. He was always the first one to step up to the plate,” he said. “He always opened up his arms to anyone that needed it. He did so not expecting anything in return. He did it openly.”

Source: Calgary Herald

Discarded clothing lies on a sidewalk at the scene of a multiple shooting in Calgary on New Year's Day. Former Toronto resident Abdullahi Ahmed died in hospital from his wounds, while six others suffered various injuries.

Toronto Star

Discarded clothing lies on a sidewalk at the scene of a multiple shooting in Calgary on New Year's Day. Former Toronto resident Abdullahi Ahmed died in hospital from his wounds, while six others suffered various injuries.
Discarded clothing lies on a sidewalk at the scene of a multiple shooting in Calgary on New Year’s Day. Former Toronto resident Abdullahi Ahmed died in hospital from his wounds, while six others suffered various injuries.

The Toronto Somali community is concerned about a possible resurgence of violence in Alberta following the New Year’s Day murder of a Somali man in Calgary, says a community leader.

Abdullahi Ahmed, 26, sustained life-threatening injuries when gunshots rang out at a Calgary house party Thursday morning, said police. Six other victims in their early 20s and 30s also received injuries ranging from minor to serious, said police.

Ahmed later died in hospital.

“It’s sad — a young person who’s not even 30 years old,” said Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress. “It’s one more loss for this community.”

Ahmed’s cousin in Calgary told media the young man moved from Toronto to Calgary six years ago. His mother was on her way to Calgary from Toronto after learning of the shooting, she said.

“It’s becoming a familiar pattern — (young Somali men) from Ontario dying in Alberta,” said Hussen, who added that members of the Somali community also told him Ahmed lived in Toronto.

“You can’t help but think that this is part of that larger picture that we were dealing with for so many years.”

Hussen recalled a time when dozens of Somali men, many from Toronto, were killed in Alberta between 2008 and 2011 amid gang and drug turf warfare in the prosperous oil communities. Some had simply been killed in the crossfire, a situation of hanging out with the wrong people at the wrong time.

But Hussen had been confident violence in the community was easing up. In 2009, leaders in the Somali community made concerted efforts to combat the spike in violence in Alberta, he said. The community reached out to school-aged children — encouraging them to stay in school — and worked closely with police to bring about change, he said.

Now, the Toronto Somali community is on edge.

“Is this a resurgence? Will it start to repeat itself on a monthly basis the way it did in 2008 and 2009?” he asked. “I’m concerned that this may not be the last (murder).”

At a news conference Thursday, Calgary police Insp. Ryan Ayliffe said police are still seeking answers in their “complex” investigation.

He said police believe the residence where Ahmed was shot was targeted but police did not have a motive. They were unsure if one person specifically was targeted and did not have suspects, he said.

The shots came from inside the home, where more that 50 people gathered, resulting in injuries to partygoers and a bystander who was driving by the residence, he said.

Ayliffe said it was “too early speculate” on the possibility the violence was gang-related. He also said he could not comment on Ahmed’s alleged criminal past.

Ayliffe said some witnesses police spoke with were from the Somali community. He was appealing to community leaders to encourage more witnesses to come forward.

At a news conference Thursday, police were asked if there was a link between the shooting victim and the Toronto Police’s ongoing Project Traveller investigation into members of the Dixon City Bloods.

Duty Inspector Quinn Jacques said he did not have information on the victim at the time.

Toronto police were unable to confirm if they were involved in the Calgary investigation.

“We don’t generally comment on investigations by other agencies,” said Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash.

Ayliffe said police were also investigating a suspicious death Friday in Calgary, but he did not think the two incidents were linked.

NDP's Faisal Hassan 1

NDP's Faisal Hassan 1

Toronto – After serving the NDP and the Canadian public in various capacities, Mr. Faisal Hassan, a prominent social activist and human rights advocate is seeking the NDP nomination for the next Federal election in Etobicoke North.From housing activist to published author to broadcaster to political assistant, Faisal Hassan has a proven track record as a progressive activist in his community. He is a highly respected community leader who has dedicated his life to serving residents of diverse backgrounds.

“I am thrilled to put forward my name for the federal nomination with the NDP and look forward to building strong and vibrant communities. Together, we will build on our strengths and successes while addressing the gaps in social and economic well- being to benefit all Canadians” says Faisal Hassan, who has long supported a progressive agenda and represents an experienced voice in his community.

Faisal Hassan says he is in the race because he strongly believes in the NDP. With strong roots in a riding he strongly believes in, Faisal is calling upon Etobicoke North residents to support his nomination stating that he is fully committed to addressing all issues affecting residents in the critically important Federal riding.

NDP's Faisal Hassan 2

“It’s where I live, and it’s where I chose to live. It’s the community that has given me a lot, and I want to ensure the same opportunities exist for all residents of Etobicoke North. I believe in job creation, dealing with issues of income inequality, public transit, clean air and clean water. I know that with your help, together, we can build a better Etobicoke North “states Faisal Hassan.

Faisal currently works as an assistant to NDP MP, Mike Sullivan and as one of Canada’s leading Somali to English literary translators. He has written a novel and formerly hosted a popular Somali-Canadian radio program. In addition, he served on the volunteer boards of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation and Brampton’s Habitat for Humanity. He is an active member of Unifor Local 232.

Etobicoke North is home to a large segment of population comprising of low-income families many of whom live in priority neighbourhoods. Faisal’s experience in this area will be critical as he has worked extensively with low-income persons and those who are at risk of homelessness. He was a driving force behind many initiatives that addressed the unmet needs of Toronto’s homeless population through his work with the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Housing Connections and as an Internal Review Panel member. He was also active with the Immigrant and Refugee Housing Task Group, which brings together representatives of different levels of government, academics, and community-based groups to share information, develop new strategies and advocate for positive change in housing policy.

A strong advocate for housing, Faisal’s is well-known for his successes in getting the issues of homelessness, refugee housing and settlement addressed. He proposed the Red Cross First Contact Project which provides strategic intervention when and where new refugee claimants need it most – on arrival at a Canadian port of entry.In political life, Faisal previously worked for former NDP MPP, Paul Ferreira and is formerly the President of the York South–Weston NDP.

Over the years, Faisal Hassan has tirelessly mobilized ongoing support for his community bringing their outstanding issues to the attention of the NDP. He has organized numerous community events that brought together residents, key stakeholders and policy makers in bid to find lasting and durable solutions to multitude of concerns raised by community members of diverse backgrounds and needs.

Some of the key events he helped organize include community round table forums that brought NDP leaders to come and listen to the public with view of working collaboratively with stakeholders to address critical issues affecting the community at large by employing effective implementation plans.The well attended party-sponsored round tables were aimed at engaging NDP leaders in group sessions with concerned residents that set forth their vision for tackling such critical issues as housing, unemployment, public transit and public safety concerns.

Faisal Hassan has secured high profile endorsements from key NDP personalities who heaped praise on the Etobicoke North candidate through statements released in promotional videos.

Ed Philip, former NDP MPP, from 1975-1995 and a cabinet minister in the Bob Rae government said “Faisal Hassan has a good knowledge of federal politics and would make us an excellent member of parliament” while Diana Andrews, a teacher and former NDP candidate in Etobicoke North noted that “Faisal Hassan gets things done, works hard and knows his community in Etobicoke North.”

“Faisal is a great candidate for Etobicoke North. He has been with York South- Weston for quite some time; it is a successful Riding Association and has done a great job. I think Faisal would be a great candidate for Etobicoke North because he knows the issues very well. He is for diversity, he is for change and we need change in Etobicoke North “said Patricia Crooks, the President of the Etobicoke North NDP Riding Association.

“I can’t think of a more fair- minded, interesting, caring person than Faisal Hassan. He would take your concerns to Ottawa and be available to you when you need” observed Joan Bonk-Mackenzie, a retired TCDSB teacher and former school board trustee.Charan Hundal, an Etobicoke North NDP Provincial Council Delegate stated “I strongly endorse Mr. Faisal Hassan as our Federal candidate for Etobicoke North” while Barry Marsh, an Etobicoke North NDP Executive Committee Member said “Faisal has been very active in York South-Weston Riding and has done a lot of work in Etobicoke North.”

A proud resident of Etobicoke North, Faisal Hassan was educated at the University of Winnipeg where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Justice, Law Enforcement and Administrative studies. He also holds a Certificate in Project Management from Humber College. If nominated, Faisal Hassan will undoubtedly be a strong candidate for his party and an extremely powerful and influential voice for his community.

Yusuf Mohamed Calgary Canada

Global TV (Canada)

Yusuf Mohamed Calgary CanadaThree days after a prominent member of Calgary’s Somali community was robbed and shot in the face, police continue their search for two men.

Yusuf Mohamed was shot by the two masked men during a holdup Friday night at his money exchange store on 17th Avenue southeast. He survived but was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

Mudhir Mohamed runs a grocery store a few blocks away from the shooting scene and is a friend of the victim.

“He was a good guy who was a community man, who cares about what is happening with violence and all these things,” said Mohamed. “He was very helpful and was sponsoring sports and youth.”

Mohamed is also concerned about the impact of the shooting on businesses along International Avenue.

A photo of Yusuf Mohamed, who was shot during a robbery at his southeast business.
A photo of Yusuf Mohamed, who was shot during a robbery at his southeast business.

“The main concern now is security,” he said. “Some of the customers are now saying ‘oh guys, we are not coming here soon because it’s not safe.”

Just two months ago, Mudhir attended the funeral of Maqsood Ahmed, who was stabbed to death outside his store during a robbery.

“This is about in general the people who are living at Iternational Avenue, or Forest Lawn. “They need to be protected.”

Hussein Warsame has know Yusuf for 15 years. He says these these acts of violence need to be addressed not only by police and the community, but also by business owners who may need to step up their security.

“They would like to believe that Calgary is a safe city and they don’t have to hire a lot of expensive security guards,” said Warsame. “But it seems that  maybe that’s not the case; maybe the police cannot be everywhere.”

Business owners are also concerned the assailants in both Ahmed’s murder and Yusuf’s shooting remain at large.

“Sometimes we say there is no difference between Mogadishu and Forest Lawn,” said Mohamed.

Last summer, Calgary police introduced a 16-member beat team dedicated to policing International Avenue along with regular district officers.

Police at scene of shooting at 50 St. and 17 Ave. S.E. Man is his 60s has been shot in the mouth on Friday December 5, 2014, in Calgary, Alta . Jim Wells/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

CTV News

Police at scene of shooting at 50 St. and 17 Ave. S.E. Man is his 60s has been shot in the mouth on Friday December 5, 2014, in Calgary, Alta . Jim Wells/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency
Police at scene of shooting at 50 St. and 17 Ave. S.E. Man is his 60s has been shot in the mouth on Friday December 5, 2014, in Calgary, Alta . Jim Wells/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

Yousef Mohammed, the victim of a Friday evening shooting along 17 Ave. S.E., is comatose in hospital with his wife at his bedside.

According to Imam Abdi Hersy, Mohammed is considered to be in stable but critical condition.

The imam and dozens of members of Calgary’s Somali community have been to the hospital to show their support for the victim’s family. Yousef Mohammed is married and the father of three young children.

On Friday evening, Mohammed was shot in the neck during a suspected robbery attempt at the Dahab Exchange, the business he owns in Forest Lawn.

Witnesses saw two masked men run from the scene. Police have not made an arrest in connection to the shooting.

Imam Abdi Hersy wants Mohammed’s attackers to come forward.

“My message to them is you need to surrender,” said the imam. “Enough is enough. You have damaged the community and society in general. We don’t need such a thing. We came to Canada to feel safe.”

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact the Calgary Police Service, 403-266-1234, or Crime Stoppers.

Some 1,500 mourners gathered for the funeral of homicide victims Zahra Abdille and her two sons, Faris and Zain. The funeral was held at the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Etobicoke before they were buried at Beechwood Cemetery.

Toronto Star

Some 1,500 mourners gathered for the funeral of homicide victims Zahra Abdille and her two sons, Faris and Zain. The funeral was held at the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Etobicoke before they were buried at Beechwood Cemetery.
Some 1,500 mourners gathered for the funeral of homicide victims Zahra Abdille and her two sons, Faris and Zain. The funeral was held at the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Etobicoke before they were buried at Beechwood Cemetery.

A huge crowd gathered to honour the lives of Zahra Abdille and her two young sons on Friday, but the slain family had no immediate relatives at their funeral.

Abdille’s mother is dead and her father leads a nomadic lifestyle in East Africa — it’s likely he does not even know his daughter and grandsons are dead, Mughtar Yosow, Abdille’s distant cousin told the Star.

Yosow, who lives in Scarborough, was called by police last Saturday night, after Abdille and her two children were found dead in their Thorncliffe Park Dr. apartment. Abdille’s husband, Yusuf, who is being investigated for the triple homicide, fell to his death on the nearby Don Valley Parkway a few hours before the bodies were discovered.

Yosow had to call Abdille’s family in Kenya to deliver the news.

The bodies of Abdille, 43, and her sons, Faris, 13, and Zain, 8, were released to Yosow. He was responsible for arranging their funeral and burial.

“No immediate family are here,” Yosow told the Star as gravediggers shoveled dirt onto the three caskets lined up side by side in the Beechwood Cemetery grave.

Abdille and her sons were wrapped in white shroud, in keeping with Muslim tradition. Her casket was placed in between her children in the grave.

Yosow told the Star Abdille and her sons died from stab wounds. Police would not confirm their cause of death on Friday, saying the investigation is still ongoing.

Mughtar said relatives in Kenya are reeling over the deaths.

“It’s unbelievable. You can’t do any worse than this,” he said.

Abdille, who worked as a Toronto Public Health nurse, fled to an abused women’s shelter last year where she tried to get an emergency court order for the custody of her children, the Star reported Tuesday.

But, she did not have enough evidence to prove her children were in danger, she could not afford a lawyer and she did not qualify for legal aid, so Abdille returned to her violent home.

Mughtar said Abdille would visit him often, the last time he saw her was about a month ago, but he had no idea she was a victim of domestic abuse.

“I never knew he was violent. I knew he was a controlling creature, but I didn’t know he was violent,” Mughtar said.

Mourner Robert Doucett met the Abdilles when they arrived in Toronto as refugee immigrants in the late 1990s and moved into an apartment that he was supervising.

“Never in 20 years did I hear any comment from Zahra about any kind of problem or physical abuse in the home,” he said at the burial.

“I’m numb. I don’t know what to think about it. I loved them all very much and all I can do is weep.”

Doucett said he thought Yusuf Abdille, who worked as a mechanic in Toronto, was a “nice man.”

The funeral for Abdille and her children was held at the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Etobicoke and chairman Said Omar said about 1,500 people attended.

Women and men were in separate rooms, divided by a wall. Abdille’s open casket, at first on view in the women’s room, was later moved, to be placed next to her children in the men’s room.

The women were seated close together in rows on the floor, some weeping into their hijabs during the service.

“The whole entire Muslim community shares this sorrow. It is a tragedy we share. It unites us,” Omar said during the service.

Zahra Abdille fled Kenya for Canada in the late 1990s. She married Yusuf Abdille in Toronto in 1998.

Slain nurse Zahra Abdille, with her son, Faris, and husband, Yusuf. COURTESY SONIA BERRY

Toronto Star

Slain nurse Zahra Abdille, with her son, Faris, and husband, Yusuf. COURTESY SONIA BERRY
Slain nurse Zahra Abdille, with her son, Faris, and husband, Yusuf. COURTESY SONIA BERRY

The legal system failed Zahra Abdille and her children and they returned to the violent home where they were eventually killed.

Last year Zahra Abdille cried out for help, fleeing her husband for a safe house and asking for an emergency court order to protect her young sons.

But she didn’t have enough evidence to prove her children were at risk. She couldn’t get the financial documents asked of her. She didn’t qualify for legal aid and because her husband controlled their bank account, she couldn’t afford a lawyer, according to her close friend.

After three weeks in an abused women’s shelter, Abdille returned to the violent East York home where she and her children, Faris, 13, and Zain, 8, were found dead on Saturday. Yusuf Abdille, her husband and the father of their children, died after plummeting off a nearby bridge the same day.

Police have not ruled out Yusuf Abdille as the perpetrator in the triple homicide.

A funeral for Zahra Abdille and her children takes place on Friday at the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Etobicoke.

Some observers suggest the Toronto Public Health nurse fell through the cracks because she was not identified to court staff as a victim of domestic abuse. Others, however, say the legal system was difficult for her to navigate from day one.

“An ordinary person has a hard time with our system, but if you add all the layers of domestic violence — exclusion, fear and juggling children, it makes it that much harder. Just getting through the paperwork is daunting,” said Amanda Dale, executive director of Toronto’s Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which specializes in domestic violence cases.

Abdille’s relationship with her husband of 17 years had been volatile since the early 2000s, according to one of her closest friends, Sonia Berry. He would belittle Abdille in public and abuse her in private, Berry told the Star.

In a desperate attempt to protect her children, Abdille fled to a women’s shelter in July 2013 and went to court twice to try to file an ex parte motion to gain sole custody without her husband’s consent, according to Roz Roach, executive director of the shelter, Dr. Roz’s Healing Place.

An ex parte order, which would have allowed Abdille to impose a restraining order against her husband, is only granted in extreme cases to protect children in danger.
Abdille’s motion was denied because she did not have enough evidence to prove her children were at risk, Roach said.

Family lawyer Andrew Feldstein said applicants who file an ex parte motion have “a very, very heavy hurdle to get over to convince a judge to grant it.”

“You need to have as good evidence as possible,” he said. “With her lack of legal skills and assistance, it’s likely she wasn’t able to put together the materials to flesh out that evidence.”

A recent job posting for a public health nurse in Toronto suggests Abdille was likely earning around $60,000 to $67,000, meaning her income was above the $32,860 legal aid threshold for victims of domestic abuse with two children.

Yusuf Abdille also controlled all of Zahra Abdille’s money in the couple’s joint account, which meant she could not pay for a lawyer, according to Berry.

“She actually left him, but there were not enough resources for her out there,” she said.

“Zahra was a strong, educated person and she was stuck in this situation that she just couldn’t get out of.”

Penny Krowitz, executive director of the Act to End Violence Against Women, said it was possible Abdille did not pursue her application because she was intimidated by the legal system and “overwhelmed with fear.”

“If you do not have representation or solid legal advice, very often you are not successful,” she said.

The tragic death of Abdille and her children would hopefully lead to “systemic changes” in the system, Krowitz said.

“This story tells us that there is a great deal more education needed for lawyers, judges and the public about what domestic violence really is and how the system works,” she said.

Dale claimed services do exist to help women like Abdille. For some reason, however, she was not identified as a victim of violence.

Staff at the courthouse might not have been screening for domestic violence, or Abdille could have masked her problems, she said.

“Women in her situation do have options, but clearly they didn’t work in her case and we don’t know exactly why that is. Clearly this is very tragic and everyone is looking at their own protocols now,” Dale said.

In a parliamentary committee for the Status of Women Thursday, NDP critic Niki Ashton filed a motion for a national action plan to address domestic violence “so that women like Zahra no longer slip through the cracks in our systems.”

The Conservative-majority committee called for the motion to be discussed “in camera,” or behind closed doors, where it was then denied.

“The federal government is failing to take leadership on preventing violence against women,” Ashton told the Star after her motion was denied. “It’s clear that we need comprehensive action and sadly the government is nowhere to be found on that front.”


According to an Edmonton community leader, there’s a surge in Somali-Canadian youth joining ISIS.

Sun News Network

SOMALI CANADIANS SEDUCED BY ISIS - BartamahaEDMONTON – In an online video made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a twenty-something former student from Calgary’s Somali-Canadian community made sure he would never leave the fight with ISIS.

“This is a message to Canada, and all of America…we are coming, and we will destroy you,” said Farah Mohamed Shirdon while burning his passport around a campfire with other compatriots doing the same.

Edmonton Somali community leader Mahamad Accord says the number of people leaving to go to Syria is growing.

“Six people that we notice, but it could be more,” said Accord.

Accord says radicalists are directly recruiting young Somali-Canadians, feeding on lack of opportunity and the hardship of fitting into a new culture.

“They can say ‘Ahha, you belong again, you’re welcome, you’re valued, your contribution’s valued,’ that’s what’s missing, and that’s what they’re offering over there. They’re saying ‘Wow, your a brotherhood, that’s why the people join the gangs…There’s so many things that we can offer them, but we have to offer them, because those guys they’re doing a better job then we’re doing.”

On how they get overseas, how jihadists contact them, the facts are sparse. What the community has came second hand. But it’s no small issue.

Alberta has 35,000 Somali-Canadians. The Canadian Somali Congress says of the 12,000 in Edmonton, 60 percent are recent immigrants or first generation under 30. That’s the target demographic for ISIS. It’s a problem large enough to get the government on board.

“From meeting with the Somali community, these are peaceful people, there are some radicals in their groups, and they want to help their youth from day one…It is a major concern,” said Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis.

Critics say going to the media accord is self-serving, creating harmful stereotypes, making life even harder for young people who aren’t getting recruited.

They also point to the fact of the 160 Canadians fighting jihad overseas, only two are confirmed as Somali.

Accord says he agrees it’s an issue for all communities, but says saving lives is what’s important.

“What I’m saying those people that think that, we can hide our head in the sand, and this thing will cure itself, I think they’re wrong…cancer is cancer, this issue is a cancer, if you hide it, you know what happens,” said Accord.


Government of Canada


Ted Opitz, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre, highlighted Canada’s ongoing efforts to stabilize Somalia during the Ministerial High Level Partnership Forum, which took place on November 19 and 20, 2014, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Mr. Opitz reiterated Canada’s continued support for sustainable peace and security in the country but also expressed concern about recent political tensions and stressed the need for unified political leadership.

Canada remains committed to the African Union Mission in Somalia and has provided $16 million to support the mission since 2010.

“As the Government of Somalia builds its national institutions it must also bring the government closer to the people, creating opportunities for the people to directly engage with decision makers through the strengthening of local governance,” said Mr. Opitz.

“The foundation of a strong, accountable and effective Somali government is critical. To this end, Canada has dedicated US$2.5 million toward the IMF Somalia Trust Fund for Technical Assistance from Canada’s Technical Assistance Account with the IMF for Africa and the Caribbean.”

Mr. Opitz also noted that a strong Somalia is a Somalia where women and girls can realize their full potential. This year, Canada has provided over $1 million to initiatives aimed at preventing violence and at protecting girls against child, early and forced marriage.

Since December 2010, Canada has provided over $180 million, including more than $44 million in 2014, to support humanitarian operations in Somalia and Somali refugees in neighbouring countries.

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Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
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Students Charlotte Sulek 12, Nara Wrigglesworth, 13, Stella Racca, 13, and Irina Babayan,12, are members of the gay-straight alliance of Westwood Middle School, and they meet in the school's Positive Space area together. The need for these bully-free zones has been proven by the Toronto District School Board's detailed student survey.
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Students Charlotte Sulek 12, Nara Wrigglesworth, 13, Stella Racca, 13, and Irina Babayan,12, are members of the gay-straight alliance of Westwood Middle School, and they meet in the school's Positive Space area together. The need for these bully-free zones has been proven by the Toronto District School Board's detailed student survey. - See more at:
Students Charlotte Sulek 12, Nara Wrigglesworth, 13, Stella Racca, 13, and Irina Babayan,12, are members of the gay-straight alliance of Westwood Middle School, and they meet in the school’s Positive Space area together. The need for these bully-free zones has been proven by the Toronto District School Board’s detailed student survey.

For the first time in Ontario, a school board has set a different — and higher — target for raising the marks of students who are black, Spanish-speaking, aboriginal, Portuguese, gay or lesbian, than the target for its students overall.

The Toronto District School Board has pledged to boost the test scores and report card marks of students in these groups next year by 15 per cent compared to 10 per cent for all students, in a bid to shrink the learning gap it has found these students face and help them succeed at the rate of their classmates.

But such nuanced, colour-coded, even sexuality-based planning is possible only because of the goldmine of demographic data Canada’s largest school board dares to collect from its 200,000 students.

It showed, for example, that 32 per cent of students who identify as LGBTQ don’t graduate from high school, compared to 22 per cent of those who say they are heterosexual. And nearly half of LGBTQ students, 46 per cent, did not apply to college or university in 2012, compared to just 32 per cent of their straight classmates.

Call it the long-form census of the education world, and it, too, comes with controversy — revered by supporters, but dismissed by critics as intrusive and even stigmatizing.

“But everything we do to move students forward comes out of our census data, even at the highest level. We’re the only board in the province that sets different achievement targets for black, Portuguese, Spanish students, aboriginal and LBGTQ,” said Jim Spyropoulos, the TDSB’s executive superintendent of equity and inclusive schools. “This is a bold move.”

The board’s sweeping 40-question student survey drills deep into a student’s background and home life (identified by code number, not name, to protect privacy) and then links that information to the student’s marks and how they feel about school, to produce the mother of all flowcharts into how demographics can shape learning.

This deep level of data is the extreme example of a trend that is starting, gingerly, in schools across Canada.

Ontario now requires all boards to ask First Nations students to self-identify so educators can track what kind of support best helps them engage with school.

Nova Scotia now asks black students to self-identify for the same reason, and has begun analyzing test scores by neighbourhood income level.

Ontario’s testing body, the Education Quality and Accountability Office, has long broken down results for English language learners, boys and girls, and students with special needs.

A network of educators based at York University is running a “demographic data and student equity project” to encourage boards to collect this kind of information and offer tips on how to comply with human rights and privacy laws.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education now mentions “demographic data” in its vision statement, although it stops short of requiring boards to collect it.

The Peel District School Board is preparing a detailed demographic and attitudinal survey of its staff, though not students, next fall.

The TDSB survey probes deeply into a student’s life. There are 40 check-off boxes for cultural background, 12 choices for family make-up and 10 selections for sexual identity for students in Grade 7 and up. The survey also asks eight questions to determine how welcome students feel at school, plus questions on their home life such as “Do you take piano lessons?” and “Who helps you with homework?” The survey is then cross-referenced with students’ marks.

Yet such complex surveys are still a tough sell, even though the two boards that use them, Toronto and Ottawa, relish the findings and community groups across the province are clamouring for more boards to get over their fear and start using them.

It’s a tool some educators believe Queen’s Park should make mandatory.

“Because we know what the gap is with certain subgroups, setting the same improvement target for everyone would just keep all groups moving forward in lock-step and fail to narrow the gap,” said Spyropoulos. He points to a string of new programs this fall, sparked by the data, designed to help boost the engagement of these subgroups. The new programs include an entrepreneurial program for First Nations students and new Africentric lesson plans at the seven high schools and 10 elementary schools in Toronto with the highest percentage of black students.

Comments about being bullied from the first small batch of students to identify as LGBTQ helped prompt the board to promote more bully-free “positive spaces” and continue its support of gay-straight alliances.

“People at other boards often say to me, ‘We don’t need to spend money to find out this stuff; we already know our kids,’ ” Spyropoulos said. “But do we always know? You might assume a high school in an affluent community wouldn’t need a breakfast program, and then you ask them and find out 100 kids come to school hungry each day.

“With our census, it’s not just guesswork, it’s not about using city data, it’s not about relying on the government census — we have the information in-house.”

Moreover, in an era of accountability, Spyropoulos said it’s helpful to be able to point to the numbers when deciding whether to keep funding a program.

But not everyone has hurried to follow suit.

The York Region District School Board was poised to launch a similar survey of its 120,000 students in May — four years in the planning, with wide community support and other GTA boards watching closely — when it pulled the plug after some trustees expressed concerns about privacy and the cost.

Board chair Anna DeBartolo insisted the survey is just on hold until after the Oct. 27 election when trustees can get more details on which questions will be asked and how the board will protect students’ privacy.

“It really wasn’t on the trustees’ radar until this year and once it was, we decided we needed to have a more wholesome discussion,” said DeBartolo, adding she is “okay with asking these kinds of race-based questions; they give us a lot of information from students.”

Had York’s survey been circulated to students in May, as staff had planned, the board would be crunching numbers by now.

“There were going to be two questions on homelessness that we were really pumped about because we have no data on youth homelessness right now. Kids are often too embarrassed to admit they have nowhere to go,” said Michael Braithwaite, executive director of 360 Kids, an agency that helps homeless youth in York Region.

“Teachers can’t always tell that a kid who falls asleep at his desk may have spent the whole night walking around because something happened at home and he had to leave,” said Braithwaite. But if you ask, you might find out, he said, and get a clearer sense how to help.

“I hope the survey really is just on hold,” said Braithwaite. “We were disappointed at the delay.”

Cecil Roach is the York board’s superintendent of equity and engagement and a strong champion of collecting data.

“The things that are important are the things we measure, and you need to know who your students are. You cannot fully talk about supporting students unless you’re able to peel back the onion in order to see the inequities.

“You have some folks who say, ‘I don’t want to segregate kids by social identity,’ but that’s ridiculous,” said Roach. “We already know gay kids are more prone to suicide, but a lot of our knowledge is anecdotal. We need to know who our students are.”

York University education professor Carl James is such a believer in the value of gathering student data he has created a network of school board officials from Toronto, Peel, York Region and Ottawa to study the issue.

He would like to see Premier Kathleen Wynne call for a “learning gap strategy” like the one she requested this week to close the wage gap between men and women, and for this, surveys would be key.

“Such data would yield very rich information for the province,” said James, “and I would argue it would be of tremendous social and economic benefit.”

A spokesperson for Education Minister Liz Sandals said Friday her government is committed to have school boards “regularly use high-quality data and ongoing research to measure progress and guide programming,” especially after the scrapping of Ottawa’s long-form census, but “it is too early to tell what that will look like.”

But detailed surveys won’t be easy. A fierce split erupted this spring among Toronto’s Somali parents when the TDSB survey showed Somali students have a 25 per cent dropout rate, 10 points higher than the board average. While some Somali parents welcomed the information and joined a task force to examine solutions, others called it unfair labelling.

“These numbers can lead to uncomfortable conversations, especially about race and also sexual orientation,” admitted Spyropoulos, “but they’re conversations we need to have.”

• 75 per cent of children of professional parents say they feel they belong at school, compared to just 65 per cent of children of parents in unskilled jobs

• 79 per cent of black students say their school offers sports they like, compared to just 65 per cent of East Asian student

• 80 per cent of students live with two parents at home and one-third of families have three or more children

• 56 per cent of elementary students have at least one parent with a university degree

• 28 per cent — the largest proportion — of children from JK to Grade 6 live in families with annual incomes of less than $30,000

Source: Toronto Star

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