Monday March 25, 2019
NDP MPP Joel Harden’s comments in the Ontario legislature Thursday sparked outrage and apologies.
Harden, a first-term Ottawa Centre MPP, referred to the July 24, 2016 death of 37-year-old Abdirahman Abdi while speaking on the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racism. The remarks came while the officer charged with manslaughter in Abdi’s death, Const. Daniel Montsion, stands trial.
“We can’t fix it if we’re colourblind. We live in a racist society and we need to be honest about that,” said Harden. “On this day I want to remember Abdirahman Abdi, Abdirahman was a 37-year-old Somali-Canadian man with mental health challenges, who was violently killed by a police officer while trying to go home, to his home.”
The remarks results in calls for Harden to apologize.
In a subsequent letter to Ottawa Police chief Charles Bordeleau, wrote: “It was not my intention to tarnish the reputation of the Ottawa police service and the members of the service who keep us safe. I apologize to the people who felt their reputation and work in building trust was impugned.”
The Ottawa Police Association called Harden's remarks "a disgusting display of contempt for the judicial process;" pointing to what the association calls several inaccuracies and harden ignoring evidence heard in court.
Referring to the longstanding legal and constitutional rule prohibiting prejudicial comments on matters before the courts, Montsion's lawyers said in a statement to CTV News.
“This legal prohibition operates to ensure that trials are conducted on the basis of admissible evidence only, and are not influenced by uninformed, political meddling.” said Solomon Friedman; of Edelman & Friedman LLP.
In his address Thursday, Harden called for the breaking down of systemic racism where it exists; referring specifically to the Abdi case in his riding.
Ottawa Police chief Charles Bordeleau declined comment; expressing an interest to move forward.
MPP Harden had parliamentary privilege while making the comments and can’t be sued. The allegations against Const. Montsion have not been proven in court. Montsion has pleaded not guilty; his trial continues Monday with a verdict in the case still weeks away.