Edmonton police need third-party investigation into attack on Black boy, advocates say

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Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton, says many community members do not trust the Edmonton police to take their complaints of hate crimes seriously.  (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)
Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton, says many community members do not trust the Edmonton police to take their complaints of hate crimes seriously. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

A group of Black community leaders is calling for Edmonton police to request an independent investigation into an after-school attack on a Black teen.

In a May 24 letter, just released publicly, a group of eight community leaders say it was unacceptable and dismissive for Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee to say the April attack on a 14-year-old Black boy was "consensual" and not a hate crime.

"The community has lost trust in the city police," says the letter. "A strong bond and working relationship is comprised of honesty, truth, impartiality and clear communication in order for the community members to feel comfortable in all their endeavours with law enforcement."

On April 16, Pazo, who CBC is only identifying by his first name, was leaving Rosslyn School to catch the bus when he says around seven other students chased and tackled him.

He said the other students used racial slurs, such as the N-word, and called him "monkey."

A video that was posted online of a portion of the incident shows teens punching and kicking the boy, and one student drags him in a chokehold before slamming him to the ground.

His mother said he was treated in hospital for a concussion.

The community leaders say police should initiate a third-party investigation of the incident and define for the public what constitutes a consensual fight and a hate crime.

Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton, is one of eight leaders who signed the letter.

In an online forum Friday about the community's fraught relationship with the police, Ibrahim said more than a month has passed, and Edmonton police have not responded to the letter.

In an email, a police spokesperson said the service would provide an update on the investigation next week.

Community members fear hateful attacks, reporting to police

In the forum, many of the leaders who signed the letter said a pattern of hate-motivated attacks in Edmonton is increasingly troubling, and they feel police and governments do not take the issue seriously.

Ibrahim called for a hate crime hotline for victims to report attacks without going through the police.

In the past year, Muslim women in the Edmonton area have reported at least seven hateful, unprovoked attacks in which they were screamed at, shoved, or pushed to the ground.

In the forum, participants said the lack of consequences for the perpetrators of these attacks sends a message this behaviour is acceptable.

Mulki Ali, a social worker and Somali immigrant who has worked with newcomers in Edmonton for more than 20 years, said the events are traumatizing.

She now feels uncomfortable walking alone, worried that someone will creep up from behind or beside her.

Some of her clients say they do not feel safe reporting hateful incidents to the police.

Some participants also alleged they were unduly scrutinized and punished by police when they tried to report an attack.

The police's responses are causing victims further distress and fostering distrust, said Habiba Mohamud, who works as a statistician.

"It is basically getting to the point where we are already convicting the victims of hate crimes and prepared to put the justice system on top of them," she said.

Alex Puddifant, press secretary to Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, did not directly answer a question Friday about whether the provincial government would consider a hate crimes hotline.

He pointed to a new community liaison to work with hate crimes victims and provincial hate crimes coordination unit, which the government announced last month, but are not yet active.

Puddifant said the province is also examining police education standards and regulations to ensure officers treat everyone fairly.

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