'Hodan matters': Protesters in 3 cities call for accountability after charges stayed in nightclub death
WARNING: This story contains graphic details
Chants from demonstrators emphasizing the value of an Ottawa woman's life and calling for accountability in her death echoed off buildings in Saskatoon's downtown Saturday afternoon.
"Hodan matters, Black lives matter," protesters repeated as they marched along 3rd Avenue from City Hall toward the former location of Lit Nightclub where Hodan Hashi died.
Hashi, 23, was involved in a fatal fight with Paige Theriault-Fisher, 22, at the nightclub located above the Crazy Cactus Restaurant and Lounge last November.
Police originally charged Theriault-Fisher with second-degree murder. That charge was reduced to manslaughter later that same day.
Earlier in April, the charges against Theriault-Fisher were stayed, meaning the legal proceedings were paused either temporarily or indefinitely, but does not mean the charges were withdrawn.
Saskatoon was one of three cities across Canada — including in Regina and Ottawa — where demonstrators gathered to call for justice.
"I think people are under the impression that justice looks like imprisonment or justice looks like a life sentence or something. I don't think justice looks like any of those things because we're an abolitionist group," said Delilah Kamuhanda, co-founder of Black Lives Matter YXE in Saskatoon.
"I think justice right now looks — for people like the accused or like the person involved in the case — I think it looks like everybody being treated with those privileges."
Before the march began, organizers cautioned demonstrators about discussing the case because of an ongoing $1 million civil lawsuit against Theriault-Fisher and at least one person who uploaded a video of the incident.
Kamuhanda was hesitant to provide her opinion about the case, she said she thinks the "feelings of the community and the feelings of the family is that they would have liked more transparency in the case and ultimately they would like more communication … and then ultimately accountability for the life that was lost."
'Fatal accident' led to Hashi's death: Crown
Videos of the fight were widely circulated on social media and show the two women wrestling on the dance floor of Lit Nightclub.
"People were recording instead of intervening and that has had a huge impact on our community … and the trauma that it created," said Ali Abukar, a member of the Black community who assisted in organizing the event.
Theriault-Fisher is seen repeatedly striking Hashi in the face and neck area. A pool of blood suddenly appears beneath Hashi, blossoming out across the floor. The women are separated, then Hashi stands and staggers a few steps before collapsing.
Crown prosecutors said the fight was mutual, no weapons were used and the fatal injury was an accident.
"During the fight, the two women went to the ground and, tragically, Hodan Hashi was cut by a broken glass lying on the floor. Based on the evidence, that cut was the fatal injury that caused Ms. Hashi's death," the Ministry of Justice said in a statement.
"After careful consideration, Public Prosecutions has concluded that the fatal injury resulted from an accident; there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction for the charge of manslaughter or any other criminal charge."
WATCH | Family of Hodan Hashi speaks out about prosecution's decision:
Abukar said the prosecution's decision has outraged the community.
"This at least deserves a trial," he said.
"This is just a repetition of the lack of trust that our community has with the justice system."
Conflicting opinions on race's role in decision
While Theriault-Fisher's defence lawyer, Sharon Fox, maintains her belief that nationality, skin colour, religion or creed did not play a role in the Crown's decision, demonstrators disagree.
"If we look at similar cases, that's definitely what we see: if the roles are reversed, that the outcomes are different," Kamuhanda said.
"If you're someone who's coming from a place of privilege that you might not see the implications of race in the daily lives of marginalized and racialized people."
Theriault-Fisher spoke the day after the Crown prosecutors said they would be filing a stay of proceedings, saying she regrets the events that led to Hashi's death and hopes that "they can heal and move forward."
WATCH | Paige Theriault-Fisher speaks about incident after manslaughter charges stayed:
Hashi's family told CBC in mid-April they don't accept her apology and are unable to heal.
A statement read from the family was read in Regina and Saskatoon, calling the prosecutor's decision "horrific."
"A precious and valuable life was taken from her family in a gut-wrenching way and it is the responsibility of those we trust in positions of power to hold perpetrators accountable fairly and without bias," it said, as read by others.
A 2022 petition in Hashi's favour is calling for an investigation into Theriault-Fisher's past as evidence for legal matters and that the videos of Hashi's death be deleted from devices.
Demonstrators also provided links to a pre-written document as part of an email campaign to the provincial justice ministry, including attributing the quick decision to reduce the charges to "institutional apathy for Black people in Canada."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.