In one Edmonton murder case on New Year’s Day in 2011, a restaurant full of people yielded just one suspect description. Homicide detective Bill Clark complained publicly, forcing the police chief to apologize and mend fences with Somali leaders.
M.J., sitting in Fort McMurray, said he’d never speak to police.
“Where’s my benefit, if I snitch on you? I put my life in danger. I have no benefits. They do nothing for me, they pull me over, because being black, and you think I’m going to go to them and tell them what’s going on?”
Somali leaders want program funding for their summer camps, soccer and basketball leagues, or a community centre – anything to engage young Somali men, specifically. Existing programs are piecemeal, and rely heavily on volunteer hours at Somali organizations. “The only way we can stop them from joining these bad activities is to make them busy with positive programs,” said Bashir Ahmed, executive director of Edmonton’s Somali-Canadian Education and Rural Development Organization.
But those don’t always work. Mr. Hassan was once in one, writing he was“planning to be productive member of society.” He was later charged with cocaine trafficking before being gunned down earlier this month.
Five years ago, community leaders produced a provincially funded report on the risks facing Somali youth in Edmonton. One of the co-authors was Abdullahi Roble – Mr. Hassan’s father – who doesn’t want to talk about his dead son. “There’s nothing to prove, nothing. … We will not gain anything about him. He’s dead, that’s it. That’s enough for me,” he said.
But for those who get caught up in the game and survive, the challenges are far from over.
Saeed Ibrahim Jama’s parents fled Somalia’s turmoil and went to Saudi Arabia, where he was born, before eventually ending up in Canada in 2001. They lived in poor neighbourhoods in Toronto and Winnipeg and Edmonton, and Mr. Jama and his older brother both fell into crime.
Mr. Jama served 27 months for getting caught with drugs he planned to sell. Since being released, he said he’s turned his life around, but was denied citizenship. Last Wednesday, Canada served him a final deportation notice. On July 22, barring a last-minute legal intervention, he’ll be deported to Somalia, a country he has never set foot in.
The federal official ruled he faced no “significant personalized risk” by returning to a country where it recommends Canadian citizens “avoid all travel.”
Mr. Jama is repentant. “I completely understand why they want to deport me. I understand it. I did what I did,” he said this week. But, he said, the government is making it impossible for his generation to make amends.
“I’ve been working, doing everything I can. I don’t make no trouble. But they don’t see it,” he said. Once part of a middle-class family that began to struggle, he says he got into drugs for the money, and because of peer pressure. His oldest sister is a university graduate, and another sister is in university. But he and his brother, the ciyaal baraf, have criminal records.
“I was young, and I didn’t take it seriously,” he said, adding some advice for other young Somalis. “They need to look at what their parents went through to get them here. But no one sees it like that.”