Members of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton were getting ready for a Canada Day event Thursday night when a voicemail left them feeling rattled.
President Jibril Ibrahim said a man called at around 6:15 p.m. He used a real trackable number. The man on the 15-second voicemail started off by saying, “Hi, I was wondering if the Somalians was going to celebrate Canada Day celebrations tomorrow?” The man then proceeded to say racist and hateful comments.
“It’s not right, it’s not acceptable at all,” Ibrahim said.
He said the organization reached out to police through outreach emails, but also took it a step further and called 911. The organization also requested safety support for the Canada Day celebrations. As of Tuesday morning, Ibrahim said they haven’t seen or heard from any police officers after their call.
“We don’t want to be intimidated by anyone, so we decided to go ahead (with the event). We were expecting 300 people — only about 100 people showed up because maybe they were afraid something might happen. So it’s not good to have that kind of feeling.
“We were celebrating Canada Day because we are Canadian, right? Imagine that, going to an event and thinking in the back of your head, ‘What is going to happen?’”
Ibrahim said they kept the doors locked to monitor who was coming in. He said he feels police are not taking their complaint seriously.
“They are not taking any meaningful actions to stem out hate in the city. We should not be feeling this way.”
University of Alberta criminology professor Temitope Oriola said the voicemail that was left doesn’t have a direct threat, but it needs to be considered in the context of the vulnerabilities the Somali community has faced in Edmonton.
There have been several hate-motivated attacks on Muslim women wearing hijabs in the city in recent months.
“Several Muslim hijab-wearing Somali women have been attacked on the streets of Edmonton while going about their lawful duties,” Oriola said. “These were unprovoked attacks, and, therefore, you can understand that concern of this community when they got that kind of voice message.
“People do not make reports of hate messages for fun. They don’t make these messages because they wish to. Often times it’s a result of a very serious and egregious situation and therefore it is important that, as a society, we will respond as swiftly as we can.”
Oriola said he believes police didn’t think this was a serious threat, and didn’t make this report a priority.
“The police should not ignore those kinds of messages. The police should not ignore those kinds of calls.”
After Global News reached out to the Edmonton Police Service, the inspector in charge of its downtown division connected with Ibrahim.
In a statement, police said EPS dispatch received a call on the night of June 30.
“The call was evaluated and placed in a queue for response that unfortunately was not considered until later in the evening, at which point, given the late hour, it was deferred. On July 2, for reasons yet to be determined, the call was not responded to,” police said.
“Other employees of the EPS only became aware of the original complaint following receipt of an e-mail from Mr. Ibrahim to various government, police and other contacts.
“While policing a large metropolitan centre requires the prioritization of many calls for service, particularly on holidays and major events, we recognize that this delayed response was not acceptable or helpful.
“Since becoming aware of this error, the inspector in charge of downtown division has connected personally with Mr. Ibrahim, offered an apology and explanation on behalf of the EPS and has identified the next steps in the investigation of this event.”
Ibrahim said he welcomes the call, but it’s not enough and work needs to be done.
“What is going to be done to prevent this from happening again?” he said. “This could have been worse and shouldn’t have been taken lightly.”
The society also reached out the province asking for the government to do something meaningful to stop hateful acts. Ibrahim said they had also not received a response.
In a email to Global News, the province said “the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General received a voicemail about the incident from the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton over the long weekend and is currently working to respond to the organization.”
“All Albertans deserve to feel safe and secure in their communities, regardless of where they are from or how they worship,” the statement reads. “All threatening behaviours, including suspected hate-motivated crimes and incidents, should be reported to local police services.
“Alberta takes hate-motivated crimes and incidents very seriously and has been active in working to eliminate hateful acts while supporting those who are targeted. The hate crimes co-ordination unit was established at the start of the year to help organize the many resources and law enforcement supports we offer across the province. This includes initiatives such as the Alberta Security Infrastructure Program that provides grants for security improvements and training for organizations targeted by hate crimes, as well as the hate crimes community liaisons, who are beginning to work directly with the cultural communities most targeted by hate and bias-motivated crimes. The liaisons will make recommendations to government on how to better prevent hate crimes and support victims.”
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