Mentally ill 39-year-old Somali refugee Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan dies in custody

Jun 19, 2015

Refugee who died in immigration custody identified as Somali with mental health issues

 Hamilton Spectator

A man who died last week under mysterious circumstances while detained by Canadian immigration authorities has been identified as a mentally ill Somali refugee who had spent three years in prison with little prospect for release.

Canada Border Services Agency had refused to name 39-year-old Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan, but his family and immigration watchdog groups have publicly identified him.

Hassan, who was also a diabetic, died in the early hours of June 11 in hospital in Peterborough, Ont., where he had been taken under police escort for unspecified treatment.

The province’s special investigations unit, which has been probing the death because police were involved, said the man had become “agitated” and died after being restrained by police and medical personnel.

Immigrant voices: Somali-Canadian on race

Navigating our way through the maze of race in North America


Contributed to The Globe and Mail


Last updated 

Idil Issa is a writer based in Ottawa.

Growing up as a Somali Canadian in Winnipeg and Toronto, the concept of “black” was largely absent from my life. The first-generation Somalis around me rejected the concept entirely: “I’m not black,” they would say, “I’m Somali.” There was no subtext to this declaration – it was earnestly felt. They tended to think of themselves through the lens of culture and nationality, not race and skin colour.

But many people of my generation have had to navigate our way through the maze of race in North America. No one can escape the blunt scythe of the U.S. concept of race, both its privileges and its oppressions. These implications have been thrust back into the limelight this week, with the case of Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Washington, who was born “white” but has strongly identified – some would say deceptively – as black.

Race, as we currently understand it, has a lot to do with the United States. The forced migration of African slaves from their homelands to the Americas over the course of centuries created a new world of “white” races and “black” races. It is in America that the “one-drop rule” – the notion that even a fraction of African ancestry made you “black” – could have had cultural and legal currency, or that something like the “paper-bag test” – the idea that African-Americans with skin lighter than a shopping bag could get away with being almost white – could have caught on.

It is this tradition of racial “passing” into which Ms. Dolezal has been thrust. The Internet’s outraged have seized on her reverse-passing, categorically declaring that black women could never escape the reality of their identity. This belies the historical record on passing: Americans with some African heritage, failing the one-drop rule, did pass as white, gaining the privileges that came with that label. The “mulatto” who passes until being found out seems like the only role black women could get in Hollywood in the 20th century. Philip Roth wrote a novel, The Human Stain, on the topic. Passing is simply in the water in the United States.

On one hand, Ms. Dolezal’s easy transgression of the colour line only serves to confirm that race is a fiction. How else could one concept, “black,” link the disparate peoples from Somalia and South Africa, the Congo and Libya, Canada and Europe?

Amanda Lindhout speaks out on arrest of Somali man accused in her kidnapping

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Amanda Lindhout, near her home in Alberta, tells the Star she never thought she would ever again see the face of the man accused of leading the Somali gang that kidnapped her in 2008.


Amanda Lindhout, near her home in Alberta, tells the Star she never thought she would ever again see the face of the man accused of leading the Somali gang that kidnapped her in 2008.

By:  National Security Reporter, Published on Sun Jun 14 2015

During 460 harrowing days in captivity in Somalia, Amanda Lindhout says one of the kidnappers whom she knew only as “Adam” directed much of the torture she endured, watching impassively as a serrated knife was held to her throat, and terrorizing her mother with ransom demands.

When she was released in 2009, she thought she would never see his face again.

But on Friday — her 34th birthday — the RCMP announced an Ottawa arrest in her kidnapping case and released the photo of suspect Ali Omar Ader.

Lindhout said seeing Ader’s image online “literally took my breath away.”

She alleges he is the man who introduced himself as “the commander” of the group that kidnapped her and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan near Mogadishu and whom she knew only as “Adam.”

Desmond Cole: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times—all because I’m black

The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times—all because I’m black

by  April 21, 2015 at 12:28 pm Photography by Markian Lozowchuk

the-skin-i'm-in-01The summer I was nine, my teenage cousin Sana came from England to visit my family in Oshawa. He was tall, handsome and obnoxious, the kind of guy who could palm a basketball like Michael Jordan. I was his shadow during his visit, totally in awe of his confidence—he was always saying something clever to knock me off balance.

One day, we took Sana and his parents on a road trip to Niagara Falls. Just past St. Catharines, Sana tossed a dirty tissue out the window. Within seconds, we heard a siren: a cop had been driving behind us, and he immediately pulled us onto the shoulder. A hush came over the car as the stocky officer strode up to the window and asked my dad if he knew why we’d been stopped. “Yes,” my father answered, his voice shaky, like a child in the principal’s office. My dad isn’t a big man, but he always cut an imposing figure in our household. This was the first time I realized he could be afraid of something. “He’s going to pick it up right now,” he assured the officer nervously, as Sana exited the car to retrieve the garbage. The cop seemed casually uninterested, but everyone in the car thrummed with tension, as if they were bracing for something catastrophic. After Sana returned, the officer let us go. We drove off, overcome with silence until my father finally exploded. “You realize everyone in this car is black, right?” he thundered at Sana. “Yes, Uncle,” Sana whispered, his head down and shoulders slumped. That afternoon, my imposing father and cocky cousin had trembled in fear over a discarded Kleenex.

My parents immigrated to Canada from Freetown, Sierra Leone, in the mid-1970s. I was born in Red Deer, Alberta, and soon after, we moved to Oshawa, where my father was a mental health nurse and my mother a registered nurse who worked with the elderly. Throughout my childhood, my parents were constantly lecturing me about respecting authority, working hard and preserving our family’s good name. They made it clear that although I was the same as my white peers, I would have to try harder and achieve more just to keep up. I tried to ignore what they said about my race, mostly because it seemed too cruel to be true.

Black Canadians and Black Americans divided by more than a border

Black Canadian Like Me

It took a Jill Scott concert in Toronto to show that when it comes to black Canadians and black Americans, there’s a lot more dividing us than a border.

Posted: April 25 2011 12:11 AM


My friends and I attended a Jill Scott concert in Toronto a few years back. We were very excited. Her music was like an oasis of craft in a desert landscape of mediocrity. As Jill belted out those notes, we sang along and swayed. She led into her wicked tune “It’s Love” by inviting the audience to think about “lovin’, like, we do that good, down-home soul food, you know, candied yams, collard greens, biscuits and gravy, smothered … “

The audience went silent. I remember thinking, “Gravy goes on bread? Really? Candied yams, you say? You mean licorice and a chocolate bar belong on a vegetable? Wow. Oh, I get it — she’s just setting up her experience in the song. But, well, not really, because she’s asking us to reminisce with her, which means we’re supposed to know about these strange food combinations, too.”

One of my friends jokingly turned to the rest of us with, “I don’t think they know there are others on the planet with them. Maybe she thinks the ‘c’ in ‘Canada’ really stands for ‘Carolinas.’ ” We laughed. I chimed in with, “After the concert, let’s go to Romania and talk love over curry and roti.” We howled with laughter and went on enjoying the concert.

In truth, however, our comments were made not from humor but from disappointment, which we all felt but chose to ignore. After all, we were here to celebrate Jill’s uniqueness and relevance. Her assumption that her cultural experiences should mirror ours, here, in a completely different country, suggested that she didn’t value our uniqueness and relevance.

Ignorance (or dismissal) of black Canadians as a community was not uncommon to us, but what made this time a little more difficult to swallow was the source. Ordinarily, the source was Caucasians, not people of color, and certainly not black folks.

FORUM: What is really like for Blacks in Toronto, Canada (house, employment)

Old 05-20-2011, 05:20 PM
7 posts, read 54,721 times
Reputation: 15
Hoping actual blacks that live in Toronto, Canada or who have lived there can provide some pointers.

I’m thinking about moving to Toronto, Canada from Europe. Never being to Toronto, Canada (i’ll visit soon), but some black people I have spoken to here in Europe and in the USA (particularly) make the country and city sounds like the “best” place to be.

I’ve done some online research and they’re a lot of mixed opinions based on people’s experiences and news stories. However, what is alarming me are discussions about covert racism and the fact the majority of blacks (West Indies seems to pop-up alot) are not doing particularly well in Canada even though blacks are the smallest minority group over there.

Everywhere in the world is a challenge to get on and you can only do your best. But what is living in Toronto, Canada really like for newly arrived and established blacks? What are the core challenges (apart from the obvious ones like job hunting, etc)?

I don’t want to jump from one “fire” to another, if Toronto, Canada is no better than Europe for Blacks.

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