‘New evidence’ emerges in 2015 of death of Somali man with mental illness detained by CBSA

New information has emerged on the death of Abdurahman Hassan, a Somali man with mental illness, who died while in immigration detention in 2015, according to the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario.

The discovery forced the postponement of the investigation into Hassan’s death, which had already been delayed once.

In an email to CBC News, Stephanie Rea, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Coroner for the province, said: “All parties to the inquest have done everything possible to maintain the start date, but new evidence that could not be predicted appeared.

Rea did not specify the nature of the new evidence.

The province first announced an investigation into the death of the 39-year-old man in late October. The date was originally set for November 29, but was later postponed to December 6.

A new date for the investigation has not been set.

“It has been decided that in the best interests of the investigation, the start date will be postponed,” Rea told CBC News.

The province announced earlier that the inquest, which is mandatory under the Coroner’s Act, would hear about 20 witnesses. A jury can make recommendations aimed at preventing further such deaths.

“Significant” mental health issues

It has been six years since Hassan died in hospital on July 11, 2015, after being transferred from the Central East Correctional Center, also known as Lindsay Prison in Ontario.

Hassan, who the province’s police watchdog said suffered from “significant” mental health issues including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, has been detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) since. three years pending deportation.

“Hassan was the youngest son of a family that fled war-torn Somalia, seeking a better life in Toronto,” Senator Mobina Jaffer said in 2016 while expressing concerns about the Act. Canada Border Services Agency.

About a year after his death, the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU) released two officers, one from the Peterborough Police Service and the other from the Ontario Provincial Police, of all liability. .

According to a 2016 SIU report on Hassan’s death, on the night of June 10, 2015, two police officers, five nurses and three security guards entered an “isolation room” where he was being held and were detained. tried to put him to sleep. The SIU report said Hassan had ingested tufts of his own hair as well as feces.

Held down with my mouth covered with a towel

Along with the security guards, the police held Hassan’s legs and put a towel over his mouth “to prevent him from biting and spitting,” according to the report.

Within five minutes of receiving the sedative, according to the report, Hassan fell asleep.

But less than three hours later, officers re-entered the room with four nurses. Hassan woke up and, according to the SIU, again started ingesting and throwing feces.

Again he was kept on the floor, his mouth covered with a towel and his head resting against the bed.

“While immobilized, the man kicked, punched and grabbed nurses who were trying to clean him and his bedding. Suddenly the man stopped moving,” the report said.

Hassan was pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m.

“The question I must determine is whether the actions of any of the agents involved were a significant cause of the man’s death,” wrote Tony Loparco, SIU director at the ‘era.

“My conclusion is that neither of the two officers did anything that could reasonably satisfy the essential element of the causal offense”

Calls to end the detention of migrants

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released a joint report that found Canada detains thousands of asylum seekers each year in often abusive conditions where blacks and people of color appear to be held for longer. periods.

Many asylum seekers are held in provincial prisons with the mainstream prison population and are often subjected to solitary confinement, the report says, and those with psychosocial disabilities or mental health issues face discrimination.

The organizations called on the federal government to end immigration detention in Canada.

Canada locked up 8,825 people aged 15 to 83, including 1,932 in provincial jails, between April 2019 and March 2020, according to the report. He has also held more than 300 immigration detainees for over a year since 2016.

The CBSA remains the only law enforcement agency in Canada without independent civilian oversight, which has repeatedly resulted in serious human rights violations in the context of immigrant detention, advocacy groups say .

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