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Ottawa vigil demanding justice for slain woman one of five held across Canada

Megan Gillis
Sunday November 20, 2022

“Justice looks different for everybody, but, in this case, we're asking for transparency and accountability in the process.”

A large group of people came together outside Ottawa City Hall on Saturday afternoon for a vigil in memory of Hodan Hashi, 23, who was killed in Saskatoon, Sask., on Nov. 5. PHOTO BY ASHLEY FRASER /POSTMEDIA

A large crowd gathered outside Ottawa City Hall on Saturday to honour 23-year-old Hodan Hashi, to draw attention to her violent death in Saskatoon two weeks ago and to demand justice in her name.

“Justice for Hodan” and “No justice, no peace,” people of all ages chanted at the event, one of five vigils for Hashi planned across the country on Saturday.

The newly formed Justice for Hodan Hashi said that it was calling attention to the death of a Black Muslim woman in a “brutal and public killing” and that its heartbroken members felt “disappointed, outraged, and besieged” by the way the case had been handled.

Community organizer Khadija El Hilali said the coalition had been formed by people across Canada and was conducting events in Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatoon, Regina and Edmonton.

“When you see someone that looks like you, that shares the same faith as you, when you see someone that has a similar name, as if your cousin or your sister, you can’t ignore it … It haunts you,” El Hilali, 24, said as the crowd gathered.

“We’re hoping to share that message that we can’t sleep, we can’t rest and we want everyone else to join us in our fight … Justice looks different for everybody, but, in this case, we’re asking for transparency and accountability in the process.”

Hashi died in an altercation in a Saskatoon bar on Nov. 5.

Paige Theriault-Fisher, 22, was initially charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter after Saskatoon police reviewed evidence, including viral video recorded by club patrons. Theriault-Fisher was released from custody on bail on Nov. 10.

In a statement read at the Ottawa rally on Saturday, Hashi’s parents and siblings said that, as they mourned a “vibrant young woman who had her whole life ahead of her,” they found some peace in people rallying behind “our fight for accountability, transparency and justice” from local officials, police and the justice system.

The failure to protect Hashi, a lack of communication to her family on informing them of her death, the downgrading of the criminal charge and the release of the accused woman on $5,000 bail “further victimized Hodan and our family,” they charged.

Born in Ottawa, Hashi was the sixth of nine children of parents who came to Canada from Somalia in 1989. She was described by one sibling as a kind-hearted, social person with a beautiful smile and many friends.

In Canada, the family spent a couple of years in Saskatoon, where Hashi attended high school, before returning to Ottawa, where she graduated from Sir Robert Borden High School in Nepean.

Hashi returned to Saskatoon in 2021. She was working as a server at a restaurant and as a translator helping Somali newcomers.

Her goal was to work in special education to help make a more inclusive world for children like one of her younger siblings, who has an exceptionality. She planned to begin studies in early childhood education at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, a Saskatoon college, in January.

Janaza, the Islamic funeral prayer service, was held Nov. 11 and drew nearly 500 people, including friends and family members from Ottawa, Saskatchewan and the United States.

A GoFundMe campaign started by a family member to raise money for funeral expenses had raised more than $55,000 U.S. as of Saturday. Hashi’s family said any extra money would go toward building wells and schools in rural areas of Somalia.

At Saturday’s rally, Carleton University student Zeena Rashid said that people in Ottawa’s tight-knit Somali community felt like family to one another and said “it’s one of our daughters” when they learned of Hashi’s death.

“This is somebody that we can all relate to,” Rashid said. “This could have been me.”

With files from Lynn Saxberg


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