Soleiman Faqiri

Soleiman Faqiri was killed in prison. Soleiman Faqiri was killed in prison 15 weeks ago.

Soleiman Faqiri was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2005. On December 4th 2016, he was arrested and 11 days later, on December 15th, he was killed in prison. The charges against him were dropped 4 days after he was killed.

He was restrained with his hands behind his back. He was pepper-sprayed and had a spit hood placed over his head before his death. His body had bruises and he had a large gash on his forehead. His heart stopped as a result of the use of physical force on him. I guess it’s interesting to note as well, that during those 11 days that he spent in prison, his family was not allowed to visit him. But can we take a moment to ask ourselves why they were not allowed to see him? Now that we know what we know, one can’t help but wonder what those 11 days must have been like and what he must have went through as someone who suffered with a serious mental health issue. A man who was to be transferred to a medical facility. But he never made it there.

This was a man with tremendous potential. One who was a straight A student. He played on his high school football and rugby teams. A man who was the light of his family.

Soleiman was a visible Muslim. He was a visible minority. Law enforcement and the prison system unfairly target marginalized people. Mistreatment and injustice is most commonly felt amongst marginalized communities and in particular, racialized and indigenous peoples. Law enforcement and prison staff are NOT adequately trained to spot and support people with mental illnesses.

This is a story that needs to be heard. This isn’t a lone case. To this day, 15 weeks later, his family doesn’t have answers. No one from the ministry nor the correctional facility has reached out to them. The least they deserve is answers. Those responsible for this violation must be held accountable. The police forces need to lay charges. The government needs to be held accountable. Real systematic change needs to take place, with real policy change so nothing like this happens again.

We have a justice system that fails to protect the people it was designed to serve. We superficially make it sound like mental health is prioritized in Canada, but the reality is, it really isn’t. This is an example of just that, failing to meet the simplest of expectations in dealing with mental health issues. When a man diagnosed with a mental health illness, is to be transferred to a psychiatric facility, but instead is found dead in his prison cell, we should know that we have a long way to go.

 

A long way for mental health. A long way for racial equality. A long way for justice reform.

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