EDMONTON — Somalis in Edmonton say they want an apology from police after a detective suggested they were not co-operating with a homicide investigation and turning a blind eye to violent drug dealers.
Community leaders have asked for a meeting with Acting Chief David Korol and other senior officers.
Mohamad Accord of the Alberta Somali Community Centre says his people want senior officers to make it clear that they don’t share the detective’s views.
“We don’t want the relationship between the community and the police to be affected by the comment made by the detective,” Accord said. “We want a meeting with the leadership to discuss how they see this comment. We want them to disown this comment and we want to see an apology.”
The detective made the remark to local reporters Sunday after only one person in a restaurant full of people gave police a description of a suspect who fatally shot a 23-year-old Somali man and wounded another.
More than 30 young Somali-Canadian men have been killed in Alberta since 2005. Some of the deaths — most of them in Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Calgary — have been linked to the drug trade.
Accord said people in the Somali community feel police should be doing more to solve such crimes.
Korol declined a request for an interview, but a police spokeswoman said officers have a good working relationship with Somalis in Edmonton.
Last May, Alberta announced it would spend $1.9 million to try to cut the rising number of Somali youth dying in drug-trade violence. The money is to help families integrate into Canadian life by assisting them with jobs, education and learning English.
There is also funding for mentoring youth and recreational programs.
Community leaders say some young men are lured by easy money through drug trafficking because they are treated as outsiders. Many of the victims came to Alberta from Toronto in the hope of getting jobs.
A cartoon posted on the community centre’s website shows a pile of dead bodies with a sign saying “Born in Ontario, Killed in Alberta.” Two Somali women embracing in grief say: “We did not ask for money. We are asking for justice.”
Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, said the police aren’t the problem in Edmonton. He suggested it lies with the municipal government, including Mayor Stephen Mandel.
Hussen said the city treats members of the Somali community as outsiders, even though many were born in Canada. He said city hall isn’t giving police enough resources to solve the homicides.
“The city is so absent on this issue. They just don’t care,” Hussen said from Ottawa.
“The city government does not view Somalis in Edmonton as Canadians. They view them as someone who landed on a plane yesterday. There is a perception that they don’t deserve a lot of effort. I hate that.”
Mandel was not available for comment.
Hussen said the congress is working on a plan called “Journey for Justice” that will bring a dozen parents and relatives of some of the unsolved Somali homicide victims to Edmonton from Ontario. The relatives are to take part in community meetings that will include Crime Stoppers and police.
He said it’s hoped the meetings will help Somalis in Edmonton open up and help homicide investigators.
“They will come with us into the community to try to tell people, ’You have to co-operate with police.’ It will ensure that no more additional parents will lose loved ones.”