BLAC, RLO, and the CCR pleased with the jury recommendations from the Abdurahman Hassan inquest

Black Legal Action Centre
Canadian Council for Refugees
Refugee Law Office

Media release

February 10, 2023

Black Legal Action Centre, Refugee Law Office, and the Canadian Council for Refugees pleased with the jury recommendations from the Abdurahman Hassan inquest

TORONTO, ON – Many of the recommendations presented to the jury by the Black Legal Action Centre (BLAC), the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), and the Refugee Law Office (RLO) were accepted by the jury in the inquest into the death of Abdurahman Hassan.

Mr. Hassan died on June 11, 2015, while in CBSA custody at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC). BLAC, CCR and the RLO are pleased with the jury’s strong recommendations after delivering their verdict today following 18 days of evidence and closing statements made by all the parties.

Mr. Hassan came to Canada in 1992 as a refugee from Somalia and was granted asylum shortly after. He lived with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and PTSD. Like hundreds of others, Mr. Hassan faced deportation from Canada on the basis of criminality to a country he didn’t know. Mr. Hassan was taken into CBSA custody in 2012 to the Central East Correctional Centre, a maximum security provincial correctional centre in Lindsay, Ontario, where he spent many weeks and months in segregation.

After suffering a seizure in his segregation cell, Mr. Hassan was transferred to Ross Memorial Hospital, then PRHC. In the early morning hours of June 11, 2015, four nurses and two off-duty police officers entered Mr. Hassan’s room. He was in severe crisis while in restraints. Mr. Hassan was held down further, his mouth covered with a towel, and his head was held against the bed. He died.

Nana Yanful, Legal Director of BLAC who participated in the inquest, stated, “It is clear that Mr. Hassan was a victim to multiple systems, including healthcare, and that his identity as a Black, mentally ill-refugee contributed to his treatment here in Canada. Sadly, his experience in these carceral systems is not unique and it is our hope that the recommendations will send a strong message to the system actors and the public at large. We expect the recommendations will be used to initiate strong improvements to prevent another Mr. Hassan from dying in custody.”

Aleks Selim Dughman Manzur, CCR President, added, “The CCR is very pleased with the jury’s strong recommendations. Mr Hassan suffered at the hands of multiple systemic oppressions reflective of his intersecting identities and is sadly a part of a large continuum of people who are mistreated in immigration detention. The verdict sends a clear message that we must have a strong civilian oversight and make sure this never happens again.”

Andrew Brouwer, Senior Counsel at the RLO, stated, “The jury has delivered a powerful set of recommendations that if implemented will help bring an end to the mistreatment of immigration detainees with mental illnesses. Now Canada and Ontario must take the necessary steps to prevent similar deaths of detainees in the future. The practice of jailing immigration detainees indefinitely must end.”

The jury made recommendations directed at:

  • Ending CBSA’s practice of jailing immigration detainees in provincial correctional centres;
  • Prohibiting the practice of placing immigration detainees in conditions of segregation;
  • Establishing an independent oversight body to investigate and receive complaints about the conditions of detention for immigration detainees;
  • Ensuring that immigration detainees with mental illnesses have access to mental health treatment and alternatives to detention;
  • Monitoring and publicly reporting on the conditions of detention for racialized inmates with serious mental illness;
  • Collecting and publicly reporting on the race and ethnicity of all people detained in provincial correctional facilities.

We’re calling on all institutions to whom these recommendations are directed, including the Governments of Canada and Ontario, to act swiftly to implement these important recommendations. The purpose of a coroner’s inquest is to speak for the dead to protect the living. This inquest has shined a spotlight on the arrest to deportation pipeline, and its dire consequences for those who are both Black and have serious mental health issues.

BLAC was represented by Nana Yanful and Wayne Cunningham
CCR was represented by Laïla Demirdache
RLO was represented by Andrew Brouwer and Aviva Basman

For more information, please contact:

Nana Yanful, Legal Director, BLAC:
Andréa Viens, Communications Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees:
Andrew Brouwer, Senior Counsel, Refugee Law Office: