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We have finally learned the truth about my brother’s death


Coroner’s counsel Julian Roy summarized it best: ‘We killed Soleiman Faqiri. As a society, we know what is happening in our collective indifference. When we look in the mirror, it is painful to see who we really are. But this is a moment of reckoning, a moment filled with possibility, with redemption.’

After seven years, an inquest finally confirmed that Soleiman Faqiri was killed in an Ontario jail. Now, his brother Yusuf Faqiri writes, we need to make sure no family goes through this preventable tragedy again

After waiting for seven gruelling years for the truth, there is no longer any doubt: My brother Soleiman Faqiri was killed by correctional officers at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont. After a three-week inquest, with extensive testimony by medical experts, corrections officials, a world-renowned pathologist, an eyewitness and others, the jury ruled that Soleiman’s death was a homicide.

I have visited the grave of my brother once a week for the past seven years, promising him the truth. He deserved it. After all, he was the joyful anchor of our family – an engineering student who loved soccer and taught our mother to read. When he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, our lives changed forever, but we never stopped supporting him, and he never stopped coming home to us – that is, until December, 2016, when he was arrested and taken to prison while he was in mental-health distress.

People with illnesses don’t go to prison; they go to hospitals. But Soleiman was taken to what some call the “Lindsay Superjail.” My family and I were prevented from visiting him four times; the system shut its doors on us. Then, days after his arrest, we learned that Soli was dead. Suddenly, our anchor was gone. We were left adrift.

We had lobbied for this inquest for seven years, but that does not mean that it didn’t bring us incredible pain. In the past few weeks, we saw video evidence of my brother, handcuffed, being dragged down a hallway, barefoot, not fully clothed. We saw him struck by a guard. We saw several corrections officers disappear with him into a cell, and we saw them emerge minutes later. We saw a chaotic scene of no fewer than 20 officers in the hall, people running with a spit hood, and a nurse and paramedics eventually arriving, but too late.

How can I describe to you the feeling I had watching all those guards close his cell door and return down the hall? The way they left him behind? He was sick, cold, handcuffed, lying face down, alone. He was dying.

Call it naiveté, but when this inquest started, I had hoped that staff members at the Central East Correctional Centre would own up to their mistakes and offer concrete solutions to make things better in the future for individuals suffering from mentalhealth challenges. My family’s door was always open to hear what they had to say.

Instead, the inquest demonstrated the lack of accountability in the system, as we heard person after person pass the buck. Corrections officers doubled down or refused to take responsibility for the violence that my precious younger brother endured while he was in an acute psychiatric crisis. The prison physician refused to send Soleiman to the hospital. Sixty staff members, including senior management, were made aware of his mental state, yet did nothing. In the report by the guard in charge the day Soli died, the detail that Soli was swung at and punched multiple times in the head was left out. We were shocked to hear an officer say that staff segregation reports were often done “fraudulently,” and to learn that a video, showing that officer communicating with Soli without using violence, had been suppressed in the original investigation. And throughout this entire process, from the day of Soli’s death to the release of the inquest’s ruling, no one from the corrections system has ever contacted our family.

During this inquest, witnesses said that the corrections system is broken. And indeed, the inquest would have shattered the confidence of any Canadian following it that our institutions are responsible for their fellow citizens. We cannot accept that our guards kill inmates while operating away from scrutiny and accountability. We cannot accept that vulnerable Canadians can be subjected to absolute authority that can harm them. If Canada’s institutions do not change, they will lose all credibility and continue to decay.

So Soleiman’s tragic death can be an opportunity for our government to stand on the right side of history and begin the necessary transformation of the correctional system. The inquest jury made 57 recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths in provincial jails, including a call for concrete accountability mechanisms that will oversee the system. I implore the Ontario government to create an independent provincial inspectorate for this purpose.

And the guards who killed Soleiman must be held criminally accountable for their actions. The inquest found nearly 60 policy breaches in the time leading up to Soleiman’s death. The coroner’s report showed that Soleiman had 50 bruises on his body, his legs and hands tied, having been pepper-sprayed under the spit hood. I do not have faith that the Ontario Provincial Police will do the right thing if they are left to decide whether or not to reopen the investigation. Premier Doug Ford’s government must order it.

Coroner’s counsel Julian Roy summarized it best: “We killed Soleiman Faqiri. As a society, we know what is happening in our collective indifference. When we look in the mirror, it is painful to see who we really are. But this is a moment of reckoning, a moment filled with possibility, with redemption.”

We did not achieve justice for Soleiman in this life. Soli is not coming back. My brother is dead. But this inquest has enabled me to fulfill my promise to my brother: to find the truth. It took Canadians into the darkness of a prison in their own country where a citizen was abandoned, ill, bound and beaten by guards. The recommendations of an inquest are not binding, but some good may still come from Soli’s life if they are adopted. I do not want another family to have to go through the preventable tragedy that we have been through.

As for me, what comes next? My brother is dead.





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