Our hearts are with the family, friends and loved ones of Abdirahman Abdi following the recent verdict acquitting the OPS officer of all charges related to Abdirahman’s death. They have experienced a devastating loss and years of enduring this trial.
Somerset West Community Health Centre continues to stand in solidarity with the Justice for Abdirahman coalition. We deeply value and support their uncompromising, powerful and tireless leadership and the system changes they are advancing.
This verdict has exposed the tragic outcomes that can occur when people experience a crisis in our community. It has also exposed the prevalence and danger of systemic racism and, specifically, anti-Black racism in our institutions. Dialing 9-1-1 seems like the only possible action concerned residents can take when there is a crisis. But, doing so has repeatedly been shown to have fatal consequences for racialized communities, and is disproportionately harming the Black and Indigenous communities.
There is a better, more humane way
There are ways to respond that do not involve violence or harm. These humane responses recognize the value in:
Trusting and prioritizing the voice of Black and Indigenous communities
Deploying first responders who are trained in mental health, non-violent approaches to de-escalation and providing competent, compassionate and appropriate care
Investing in a strong social infrastructure, including crisis supports, mental health services and preventative community development
Alternatives Models for Community Safety in Ottawa
We strongly support city councilors’ Catherine McKenney and Shawn Menard’s recent motion to Ottawa City Council that seeks to change how emergency response is conducted in Ottawa. The motion calls on the Ottawa Police Services Board to undertake public consultation and produce a report outlining alternative models of community safety response that can better respond to mental health crises, drug addiction and ensure de-escalation where a police response is not necessary. Notice has been given for this motion and it will be debated and voted on at the October 28th meeting of city council.
What you can do
Help us show that this motion coming before council has public support by adding your name to this petition calling for Alternative Models of Community Safety.
We also urge non-Black allies to recognize how the constant collective grieving due to anti-Black violence is exhausting and overwhelming for people within Black communities. It is a good time for Ottawans to educate themselves on this issue, especially on the Canadian context. Councillor Menard’s office has put together a short-list of information for interested residents.
It’s OK to not be OK
We have support for the African, Caribbean and Black Communities. If you're feeling sad, anxious, confused or overwhelmed by life’s struggles, we have phone support for the community, by the community Monday to Friday, 1-4 p.m. Get in touch 343-571-0097 or ACBwalkin@swchc.on.ca
Counselling Connect provides a free same-day or next-day phone or video counselling session to any age. Visit www.counsellingconnect.org.
We have the pen in our hands. It is up to us as a community to write a story that dismantles systemic racism, eliminates racial inequities and creates a more equitable society where Black and Indigenous communities are safe from harm.