Published in the April 28th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News
Province to liase with Somali-Canadian community over staggering death toll
In the wake of the latest slaying of a Somali-Canadian man, Premier Ed Stelmach reaffirmed his commitment to work with Edmonton’s Somalian community.
The staggering total of about 30 deaths in the province includes 19-year-old Abdulkadir Dirie, whose body was found April 21 in a Fort McMurray apartment.
“The minister of justice will be working with the community to see what the issues are,” Stelmach said.
“It’s not only the number of police you have on the streets, it’s the number of judges, probation officers, prosecutors, councillors, to deal with many of the addiction issues, especially tied to drugs and alcohol.”
Though a petition for the creation of a task force to investigate the Somali-Canadian deaths has already garnered over 1,500 signatures, the justice ministry has said creating a task force would be too costly.
Stelmach says the government has already invested $450 million into the Safe and Secure Communities program, which deals with various aspects to ensure communities are safe.
The premier said one focus has been to put money into schools to try to stop vulnerable youth from falling into gang life.
“We identify youths in schools to make sure that they’re not abandoned.”
Dirie moved to Alberta from Toronto in 2008 to work and save money for post-secondary education. He planned to study computer science at York University in the fall, but not long after moving to Alberta, he fell in with the wrong crowd.
He had been charged with possession of cocaine for trafficking and possession that year, but was later released on bail.
One of Dirie’s friends said the teen had been planning to move back to Toronto and had bought a plane ticket shortly before his death.
About 30 young Somali-Canadians’ lives have been cut short in Alberta within the past five years. Most of these cases remain unsolved.
Police are currently offering rewards worth $40,000 for information about nine Edmonton homicide cases involving Somali-Canadians.
Stelmach said the justice minister and the solicitor general have listened to advice from across the country in order to come up with a plan to deal with the issue.
He said the government’s safe communities program is one of the most advanced in Canada.
“Is there more to do? Yes, there is. But at least we’re on the right track,” Stelmach said.