Dozens of young people and parents from the Somali community attended a workshop session at city hall Thursday, looking for ways to address and prevent violent crime.
Hodan Egale, president of the Somali Canadian Youth Centre, said the recent increase in gun violence prompted her to look for ways to empower her community.
“There’s an increase in violence and crimes in the community. Ottawa’s not the same as it was when I was younger,” she said.
“That’s kind of what inspired me to bring the community together to think of what other solutions are possible.”
Among the issues discussed were culturally sensitive programs to allow for reintegration, ways parents could redirect youth away from criminal behaviour and a call for accessible programs and employment.
Trust issues with police
The issue of the community’s relationship with police was also a complex topic.
“I think that a lot of trust needs to be put back together,” Egale said.
“We need to work together with the Ottawa police and different organizations, but whatever happens in the past we can move forward into the future and do great things in the community.”
Community organizer Afrah Hassan said that in general there is a feeling of “at the very least misunderstanding, and at worst distrust” between police and some communities.
“Obviously the police have a job to do, that’s to fight crime and to keep communities safe, and I think one of the best ways to do that is to include the community in their strategies and their policies,” Hassan said.
Ottawa police Insp. Ken Bryden attended the meeting along with other members and a representative of the Ontario Provincial Police.
“The avoidance [of police] is there and it is there for various reasons,” Bryden said.
“This is exactly why I’m here tonight — personally, and with other members — is to build that trust and to reinforce to the community and the members of our community that it’s extremely important to call police and report crime.”
Bryden said strong relationships between communities and police make officers more effective and efficient in dealing with crimes.
He said police are also meeting with other communities across the city