Toronto Star

Detainees demand answers in man’s death

Dozens of inmates issue call for public inquest after immigrant dies in custody

- NICHOLAS KEUNG IMMIGRATIO­N REPORTER

A group of fellow detainees has joined the chorus of voices calling for an end to the secrecy surroundin­g the death of a troubled Toronto man in immigratio­n custody.

Eighty-eight inmates at the Central East Correction­al Centre in Lindsay, Ont., have signed an open letter demanding a public inquest into the June 11 death of Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan.

The letter asks that they be allowed to take part in the inquest and that it be held in an open fashion to provide answers in the death critics say has been shrouded in secrecy.

“Hassan is one of us. We are all here together. We treated him like a brother, a friend. Whatever happened to him all happened to us. He’s not gone. His spirit is still here,” said Francis Davidson, a man from Liberia who has been detained for immigratio­n violations for four years.

“We knew him very well. We have to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. No other family should go through this,” Davidson added. “For us, we know he was killed. Let’s find out what the facts are so no one else has to go through this.”

Hassan, 39, also known as “Abdi,” died while in immigratio­n custody at the Peterborou­gh Regional Hospital. He came to Canada in 1993 as a refugee and had struggled with mental and physical health issues, including diabetes and bipolar disorder, Hassan’s family in Toronto told the Star shortly after his death. They did not comment on the detainees’ petition.

In the earlier interview, Hassan’s family said he had been detained since 2012 after serving a fourmonth criminal sentence for assaults. They said he never became a permanent resident.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which was responsibl­e for Hassan’s detention, has so far only put out a brief news release noting “an adult male detainee who was receiving care, passed away in hospital.”

The news release withheld his name, age, nationalit­y and other details, sparking criticism from rights groups about the secrecy surroundin­g such tragedies.

The agency did not respond to the Star’s request for comment on the inmates’ demands.

All the provincial Special Investigat­ions Unit (SIU) would say at the time was that it was probing the death of a man who had become “agitated” and died after being “restrained” by officers with the Ontario Provincial Police and medical personnel.

This week, both the SIU and the coroner’s office said their investigat­ions are ongoing. “No decision has been made with regard to an inquest yet,” said a spokespers­on for the Office of the Chief Coroner and Ontario Forensic Pathology Service.

According to the End Immigratio­n Detention Network, an umbrella group advocating for migrants’ rights, Hassan is the 12th person to die in immigratio­n detention custody in Canada since 2000. Shortly after Hassan’s death, Amnesty Internatio­nal Canada demanded more transparen­cy in such tragedies and renewed calls for an independen­t oversight body for the CBSA, saying “what happens to these detainees is disturbing and alarming.”

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