Family of mentally ill man who died in Lindsay jail marks one year since his death

Soleiman Faqiri died in an altercation with correctional officers on Dec. 15, 2016. One year on, that’s still all the family knows.

Family of mentally ill man who died in Lindsay jail marks one year since his death

Soleiman Faqiri died in an altercation with correctional officers on Dec. 15, 2016. One year on, that’s still all the family knows.

A vigil for Soleiman Faqiri, who died on Dec. 15, 2016, will take place on Friday at Yonge-Dundas square.
A vigil for Soleiman Faqiri, who died on Dec. 15, 2016, will take place on Friday at Yonge-Dundas square.  (SYSTEM / SUBMITTED BY YUSUF FAQIRI)  
 
From left, Maryam, Yusuf, Ghulam-Guos, Sohrab, Raustam Ali, the family of Soleiman Faqiri near his grave in a file photo.
From left, Maryam, Yusuf, Ghulam-Guos, Sohrab, Raustam Ali, the family of Soleiman Faqiri near his grave in a file photo.  (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE /TORONTO STAR) | ORDER THIS PHOTO  
 
 
 
 
 

It’s been one year since Soleiman Faqiri, a 30-year-old mentally ill man, died in a Lindsay Ont. jail after a three-hour-long confrontation with correctional officers. His body was found with 50 bruises, all the result of blunt force trauma.

Faqiri, who suffered from schizophrenia, was in jail for 11 days. He was waiting for a mental health assessment, facing charges of assault and uttering threats.

On Friday afternoon, the Faqiri family will visit the snow-clad grounds of the Pine Ridge Cemetery in Ajax, Ont. In the shadow of leafless trees they will say a prayer for their son and brother. They will tell him they love him, that they miss him, that life hasn’t been the same for the last 365 days.

They will reaffirm their promise: We will continue to fight for you.

One year ago, his grave was marked by a mound of dirt covered by red roses, vibrant on a snowy day. Today, there’s a headstone with his name written in bold golden letters.

“We’ve spent an entire year without him physically,” said Yusuf, his older brother, “but with him internally.”

The Faqiris have been battling for accountability and transparency since the day Soleiman died. One year on, the family is asking the same questions.

Why was Soleiman killed while in government care?

 
 
 

Why was he found with 50 physical injuries on his body?

Why haven’t any of the guards been held accountable for the three-hour long confrontation that was caught on a video they still haven’t seen?

“Why is the government so afraid to tell us the truth?” asks Soleiman’s father, Ghulam.

Last week, the family and their lawyers were denied their request for information detailing the final moments before Faqiri died

The refusal came a month after the Kawartha Lakes Police Service said that no criminal charges would be laid in Faqiri’s death. The family received the news in an email, 11 months after hearing that Soleiman’s death was a “complex case” still under investigation.

“It is very difficult to not feel like the family is being stone-walled,” said Edward Marrocco, the family’s lawyer. ‘There is no reason for the family to have no window into what’s happened, to have no information from the institution, no information from the police.”

Spokespeople for Kawartha Lakes Police Service and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services responded to the Star’s inquiries for this story by stating their responses haven’t changed from what they’ve previously said.

The police are awaiting the outcome of a ministry-led investigation and can’t release any information to the family. The Ministry wasn’t able to comment due to an ongoing coroner’s inquest, which was announced in November.

“Whatever happened in the Central East Correctional Centre is going to come out,” said Marrocco, “There’s so many other ways this could be handled. It’s the shutting out of the family that’s so unnecessary.”

The Faqiri family, he said, would have been happy to attend any meeting disclosing any communication from the police or the ministry. They just didn’t offer it.

“The system that we are taught to trust has betrayed my family,” said Sohrab, the middle brother. “It continues to lack the transparency that is every Canadian’s right.

On Friday, the family and the “Justice for Soli” campaign — a group of Ontario university students seeking justice for Faqiri — are organizing a vigil at Yonge and Dundas square to mark the one year anniversary of Soleiman’s death. There, they will place a picture of Soleiman on the ground, on which 50 people will place 50 white roses to mark the 50 bruises on his dead body.

His only sister will read a poem that she’s written to mark the moment: “I am no longer strong/Tears will never cease/I am rose with out thorns/Delicate/Without protection.”

Community members like activist Desmond Cole, Imam Yasin Dwyer, and Rabia Khedr, CEO of DEEN Support Services, an advocacy organization for people living with disability, will stand with the family on Friday.

“When no justice is given to a family like this, who kept an open heart, who gives the police an opportunity to bring about accountability that faith in the system is in many cases never going to come back,” Said Cole. “And that’s representative of what happens to entire communities.”

“None of these things are happening in isolation,” said Cole, who believes that Faqiri’s death is part of a troubling pattern of behavior in provincial prisons. “If the government wanted to hold people responsible for these deaths accountable, it could. It is actively choosing not to.”

In two weeks, the family would have celebrated Faqiri’s 31st birthday like they always do. They’d go for dinner where he’d make jokes and tease his four siblings.

“We’d just be another family,” said Yusuf, crying as he does every time he remembers his brother, the family’s gentle giant.

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