Soleiman Faqiri – another comeback

On December 4, the day after we posted “A comeback – No-Fault Murder?”, a letter arrived over MCSCS Minister Marie-France Lalonde’s signature responding to ours of November 6, published here on November 12 in “No-Fault Murder?”

“…..regarding the death of Mr. Soleiman Faqiri,,,, ,” she began, “….as you know, the police investigation has concluded. Questions about this decision and the police investigation should be directed to the Kawartha Lakes Police Service. Although the police investigation has concluded, the ministry’s internal investigation of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Faqiri’s death remains active. As such, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific details of the internal investigation, including staff discipline, while it is underway.

On November 3, 2017, Dr. Paul Dungey, Regional Supervising Coroner for East Region, Kingston Office, announced that an inquest will be held in the death of Mr. Faqiri. The inquest will examine the events surrounding his death. In addition, the jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths. Details regarding the date and location will be provided at a later date when the information becomes available.”

Minister Lalonde ended by asking for our patience “while the ministry’s investigation and the inquest into the death of Mr. Faqiri continue.”

Do you know how often a provincial or federal minister overseeing a part of Canada’s prison industry has said much the same as Ms Lalonde? Do you know how many millions of dollars have been spent to come up with “recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths?” Do you know how little has ever been done to implement inquest recommendations?

That’s worth repeating to the minister:

February 2, 2018

The Honourable Marie-France Lalonde,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,

Re: Soleiman Faqiri

Dear Minister Lalonde:

Your December 4, 2017 letter in response to mine of November 6th is appreciated, and I accept that its composition was the only pathway you had. However, you underpin the status quo.

You suggested I question the Kawartha Lakes Police Service about its investigation into Mr. Faqiri’s death. A police spokesperson contacted me after receiving a copy of my letter, referring me to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to pursue a complaint. That is a waste of good paper.

As for an inquest, do you know how often provincial and federal ministers overseeing Canada’s prison industry have claimed these will make a difference? Do you know how many millions have been spent to come up with “recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths?” Do you know how little is done to implement inquest recommendations?

Minister, when did you last execute an unannounced and unheralded inspection of a penal institution, be it at 2pm on a Monday, 8pm on a Friday, or 3am on a Sunday? When did any of your senior staff, or any minister in your position or senior staff in this country do likewise? We need that, and we need progressive unambiguous legislation, coupled with at-arms-length authorities to prioritize compliance.

Without that, we are simply peeing into the wind.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

We copied Kathleen Wynne, Nasir Naqvi, and Renue Mandhane.

Meanwhile, Fatima Syed, a Toronto Star staff reporter, published “Family of man who died in jail looking for answers a year later”, on December 15 of last year. “Why is the government so afraid to tell us the truth?” asks Soleiman’s father, Ghulam.

The family is pro-actively insisting on accountability and transparency, asking the same questions over the last year. “Why was Soleiman killed while in government care? Why was he found with 50 injuries on his body? Why haven’t any of the guards been held accountable for the three-hour confrontation that was caught on a video they still haven’t seen?”

The government denied the family and their lawyers’ request for information about Soleiman’s final moments before he died. A month before, the Kawartha Lakes Police Service advised them by email that no criminal charges would be laid. “It is very difficult to not feel like the family is being stonewalled,” said one of their legal team.

The “Justice for Soli” campaign, a group of Ontario university students, along with the family, held a vigil on that day at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto to mark the anniversary of Soleiman’s death. 50 people laid 50 white roses on his photo for the 50 bruises on his body. Earlier in the day, the family gathered at Soleiman’s grave in Ajax in remembrance. He would have turned 31 at the end of December.

And then, along came another Star Fatima Syed entry on Wednesday, February 7th, with a front-page headline, “Jail guard tag team involved in subduing mentally ill inmate,” and a deck, “Reports obtained by the Star detail what happened in the hours leading to Soleiman Faqiri’s death after a fight with correctional officers in 2016.”

The long and detailed account is based on documents the paper received through a freedom of information request, and is material from the police investigation of Soleiman’s death, and the files of the ministry, jail, and members of its staff.

Lawyers for the Faqiri family call what they’ve read ‘very troubling,’ but what is most telling for seasoned observers of the country’s penal systems is this extract from Ms Syed article: “Interviews (by the Kawartha Lakes police) of other inmates didn’t provide much information, said the report, as jail guards had closed the hatches to the doors of each inmate’s cell, thus preventing them from looking out into the common hallway or getting involved.”

We’ve passed a comment on to the Star’s reporter.

The Ontario government’s priority is to get past this, pursue a quiet and expedient resolution, and move on……’til next time.

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