Toronto: Why are we losing our boys? VOA Somali holds town hall meeting on youth violence in the community

By Mohamed Ali  (Kisomo)
Sunday, November 5, 2017

Toronto (HOL) – VOA’s Somali Service held a town hall meeting at the Toronto Plaza Hotel to investigate, brain storm and find answers for a question that many members of the Somali community have been asking themselves  “why are members of the Somali Community losing young men to gang related violence”?.

The question surrounding youth and gang violence has been a difficulty one for the members of the Somali Community in general and particularly in the greater Toronto area where more than hundreds of young men were lost to gang violence in the past few years.

To address this issue, VOA Somali Service invited members of the Community to ask these questions to a panel of experts and community leaders who shared their views and opinions on how to address the issues involving gang violence among the youth in the community. Falastin, VOA Reporter, who took questions from the town hall attendees to direct the questions to the members of the expert panel.

Among the members of the Expert Panel answering the questions were Sheikh Said Rage, Imam of Sakiina Centre, Sadiq Alihashi, Youth leader, Habiba Ali Aden of positive Change and Said Mohamud who is a community leader and educator in the Dixon neighbour of Toronto.

Questions coming from the twon hall attendees included why the Toronto Police who is charge of homicide cases in the city do not solve murder cases involving Somali youth? How are the youth getting involved in crimes and gang violence in the first place?

Members of the expert panel mostly agreed on a number of issues that are attracting young men to the lifestyle of drugs and gang related crimes. They agreed that it’s mostly the environmental factor because of the Metro Housing neighbourhoods in which these young men are raised. As they grow up, they find themselves in situations beyond their control where they get influenced in to joining drug trafficking and gang related violence. In Neighbourhoods such as Jamestown and Dixon, the quality of schools is very low leading to disinterest in education and schooling. According to the Fraser Institute, which ranks schools in the Province, almost all the schools in the Somali neighbourhoods perform poorly in the EQAO, the provincial standardized testing used to rate schools in the Province.

Layla, a youth leader added that the media also glamorizes crime, violence and being a member of a gang. Most boys fall for this and are easily recruited in to gangs, which leads to gang violence and murders.  Layla also emphasized that there is a huge disconnection between the parents and the youth leading to a form of what she called “Identity Crisis “ for these young men. She suggested the need to help teach these young men about who they are and what they stand for.

To address the issue of neighbourhood problems, the expert panel suggested that members of the community move out of Metro Housing areas so that their children can have access to better schools and better environment for raising the kids in to responsible citizens.

No help from Government Authorities

The panel of experts, one after the other, agreed that the authorities and the especially the police were partly to blame as they do not do anything about cases involving Somali Youth. Panel Experts blamed the authorities for their lack of interest in solving the numerous murder cases involving youth violence within the community.

Said M. Mohamud said that the blame was squarely on the Police as it’s their duty to investigate murder cases and bring the culprits to book. He said that when the Police raided the Dixon neighbourhood in 2013, the police confirmed that they recovered 40 firearms and millions of dollars worth of drugs. “ They knew exactly which apartment to go in” he said. “ How come they are not solving these murder cases then?’ He questioned.

Unity is Strength

The event concluded with an open mike where attendees where given a chance to add their opinion to the topic. The majority of them repeatedly emphasized the importance of unity within the community. They all agreed that there is lack of unity within the Somali community in Toronto and there is need to pull resources and voices together to help solve problems within the community.  The panel concluded the night by reminding the attendees that unity of purpose is very powerful and that only through unity can the community achieve its goals and aspirations.

Nagala Soo Xiriir

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