On December 15, 2016, my family received a visit from two police officers that
forever changed our lives—my brother, Soleiman Faqiri, was dead…Killed…Beaten
to death by multiple prison guards at the Central East Correctional Centre in
Lindsay, Ontario. I will begin by telling you about Soleiman and what he meant to
the people who loved him. You will hear how he suffered and died while in
government care. Finally, I will describe how Soli’s tragic story inspired a national
movement to demand accountability, transparency, and justice.
Who was Soleiman Faqiri? He was more than just a victim of the prison system. Soli
was my brother. He was a light in the lives of my parents and siblings. He was a man
of brilliant intelligence. He was a devout Muslim. He was Canadian. He was a human
being. This final point seems obvious, but it needs to be emphasized because people
like Soleiman, who live with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses, are so often
treated as less than human. However, the ultimate dehumanization occurs when
already dehumanized people are locked in the viciously dehumanizing setting of our
modern prison system. It was at a cell in one of those prisons where Soli was
Words alone cannot describe the horror of Soli’s final moments in that prison cell.
He was placed in segregation. He was restrained with his hands cuffed behind his
back. His body was held down with leg irons. He was pepper-sprayed twice. His face
was covered with a spit-hood. According to the eye witness, He was kicked,
punched, and stomped on. He had a laceration on his face and over 50 bruises all
over his body. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Soli’s story did not end in that prison cell. We refused to give up after the coroner’s
report stated that the cause of death was “unascertained.” We refused to quit when
the Kawartha Lakes Police Service decided not to press charges. We did not
surrender to despair when our demands for justice were met with so much
indifference from a cold system. No, we kept going. We continued to fight. We
shared Soli’s story with people across the country. We formed a nexus with other
movements. We built a movement that spans the nation, focused on demanding
accountability and justice. Today, as I speak, there are seven vigils in seven different
cities across the country.
Soleiman was more than just a statistic. He was a human being. He suffered and died
within our prison system…a system run by our government…a system financed by
our taxpayer dollars. What happened to Soli is more than just a mental health and
prison problem—it is a Canadian problem. Recently, an eyewitness to my brother’s
killing came forward. At the request of the Chief Coroner, there is now a new police
investigation led by the OPP. While this is welcome news, it is troubling that the
underlying issues that led to Soli’s death continue to persist. Soli’s story resonates
with people across the country because it is reflective of how society as a whole
stigmatizes, dehumanizes, and mistreats people with mental disabilities. What
happened to Soli is representative of serious systemic problems that have claimed
the lives of so many other Canadians, such as Justin St. Amour, Phuong Na (Tony)
Du, Kyaw (John) Din, Devon Sampson, Machuar Madut, Terry Quill, Donald Moose,
Pierre Corialan, Nicholas Gibbs, Cas Geddes, Laura Straughan, Abdurahman Hassan,
Ashley Smith, Howard Hyde, Moses Beaver, Mathew Hines and Edward Snowshoe.
Each of these people left behind grieving families and exposed a shocking lack of
transparency and accountability that continues to this day. But this movement is
about more than just remembering the victims of our prison system—it is also
about preventing future victims. Over a thousand days have passed since my family
received that visit, and not a single person has been held accountable for Soli’s
Killing. We are gathered here to demand accountability and transparency. We are
gathered here to demand justice. Three years is too long for any family.
We are here to call on the Ontario Provincial Police to press Criminal Charges
against the guards who were involved in Soleiman’s death.
Justice for Soli.
Justice for all.