The Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at Carleton University is deeply saddened and outraged by the murder of Abdirahman Abdi by the Ottawa Police Service.
On behalf of our members in the Carleton community we would like to express our sincere condolences and stance of solidarity with Abdi’s family, the Somali community, and all marginalized peoples subjected to police profiling, harassment, abuse, and violence.
OPIRG Carleton endorses the recommendations put forward by the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition addressed to all levels of government as well as the OPS, OPS Board, and police oversight agencies. Recommendations include acknowledging the crisis existing within the OPS in dealing with racialized individuals and those with mental health issues, and striking a task force to deal with institutionalized racism and police violence directed towards marginalized and vulnerable communities.
We condemn the Ottawa Police and its stance that race did not play a role in Abdi’s violent murder. We equally condemn the attempt of the Ottawa Police to distance themselves from systemic police violence in the United States as if to suggest that there is a difference in the trajectory of modern policing in Canada. The history of policing in Ottawa and Canada is a history of maintaining social order as perceived by the dominant culture through the threat and use of violence.
Policing as an institution is predicated on oppressing marginalized peoples to maintain the status quo, the domination of white settler society. While crime rates decrease, police violence heightens, enabled by bloated budgets and increased militarization to the detriment of the marginalized and oppressed. As a direct result, Black and Indigenous peoples are grotesquely over-represented as incarcerated populations in the criminal injustice system.
This incident highlights the need to continue questioning Canada’s colonial institutions and to build an alternative. This would involve moving beyond reforming the police who refuse to adopt strategies and policies of de-escalation and continue to murder racialized peoples and those with mental health challenges at an astounding rate.
OPIRG Carleton reaffirms its support for Black Lives Matter and the crucial work that the movement and its various chapters undertake to counter and confront systemic police violence. We also recognize that oppressed communities have the right to defend themselves.
OPIRG Carleton is also concerned over the disableism and ‘colourblind’ erasure expressed by
Bridgehead’s CEO in the aftermath of Abdi’s murder. We condemn the inaction and ableist practices of Bridgehead and actively boycott their brand until accountability measures are employed by this establishment. We urge Bridgehead not only to better accommodate their patrons with disabilities and properly train staff in crisis intervention methods, mental health initiatives by adopting a healthier intersectional accessibility policy, but to also consult with the wider community to invoke disability justice initiatives.
Geographically, Bridgehead locations are generally situated in the urban centre where patrons experiencing invisible disabilities frequent and it is vital to have measures in place that acknowledge that the lived experience of marginalized populations includes facing adverse consequences to their wellbeing when encountering law enforcement. The mobile Crisis unit is a resource that must be utilized to deescalate miscommunication among individuals understanding that higher rates of criminalization and violence against persons with disabilities.
We urge Bridgehead to strongly act upon the spirit of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to establish accessible inclusive environments. Barebones compliance will continue to present barriers within their hiring practices alongside continued customer dissatisfaction for persons with disabilities finding the environment at Bridgehead ableist and inaccessible in attitudes presented. The actions of Bridgehead’s CEO immensely disrespect Adbi’s family and consistently victim blame him, a man with mental health challenges, for his death. This sentiment is unbefitting of anyone in a leadership position. Her refusal to invoke accessible practices should raise alarm within the complicity towards compulsory able bodiness as the status quo. Her attempt at poetry further disrespects the realities of racialized persons with disabilities in favour of her own privileged position and discomfort in being called out by valued community leaders. The failure for properly acknowledge that ableism is a deadly option alongside her complicity in maintaining white privilege questions Bridgehead establishments of being in any way reflexive or diverse. Anti-oppressive frameworks must be implemented in order to establish a climate where marginalized members of our community can be safe enjoying the many civil liberties often denied to them because of internalized ableist biases. A list of resources will be made available should Bridgehead seek to engage upon equitable practices.
In solidarity on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory,