26 July 2016, Ottawa — The Public Service Alliance of Canada—National Capital Region (PSAC NCR) extends its condolences to the family and friends of Abdirahman Abdi, who was killed in an interaction with the Ottawa Police Service on July 24.
A neighbour who knew Mr. Abdi, and who recorded parts of his interaction with police on video, described him as “a very peaceful guy,” adding that “I have children in the building and he walks around, he’s good with the kids, he’s good with all the neighbours, never a problem.” In addition, Ottawa Councillor Jeff Leiper has stated that “there have been multiple accounts given that he [Mr. Abdi] has a mental illness, and that mental capacity likely played a role” in the incident.
While the details of the situation that resulted in police being called remain unclear, accounts of the police’s interaction with Mr. Abdi, who is Black and was unarmed, are concerning. Eyewitness Ross McGhie, for instance, observed that the police use of force “seemed extremely violent and excessive” and that things “escalated way too quickly for the type of resistance being put up by Mr. Abdi. It went from zero to 100 very, very, very fast. And it wasn’t really clear to us why that happened.” Moreover, it appears Mr. Abdi was left handcuffed on the ground, bleeding and apparently not breathing, for 15 minutes before paramedics arrived and began to attempt resuscitation.
These initial reports are deeply troubling, even more so in the context of the growing international Black Lives Matter movement, which has drawn unprecedented attention to the experience of racialized communities with police.
On behalf of its Racially Visible Action Committee and its Members with Disabilities Action Committee, PSAC NCR is calling for a thorough, rapid and transparent investigation into this incident by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit. Furthermore, PSAC NCR calls on Ontario Attorney General and Ottawa-Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi, as well as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, to prioritize changes to the Police Services Act that ensure police are adequately trained to handle incidents involving people living with mental health issues, and strengthen public accountability mechanisms for the police.
PSAC National Capital Region represents nearly 50,000 workers in the Ottawa and Gatineau region and is committed to defending and advancing its members rights, as well as supporting social justice movements in Canada. Learn more about PSAC at psacunion.ca.