Dixon Road community calls for support after two murders in a week | Toronto Star


A 16-year-old shot and killed in Toronto’s Dixon Road neighbourhood is being remembered as an enthusiastic and eager young boy.

Farhia Warsame, the director of the Somali Women and Children Support Network, said Zakariye Ali frequently attended her centre’s youth leadership program when he was 13 and 14 years old.

He was one of many children, she said, who was always excited to be there and often times did not want to leave the centre.

His death was one of two separate murders that shook the community over the span of a week. Last Thursday, Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, was fatally shot and found in a vehicle in front of an apartment building on Dixon Road.

Four days after his death, Ali died of his injuries in hospital following a triple shooting in the parking lot of Kingsview Village School on Dixon Road and Islington Avenue.

Warsame lost her own son to gun violence in 2015, she said, in a double murder in downtown Toronto. She was shocked, she said, and unable to speak out when it happened.

After seeing the families in her community grieving over the loss of their children this past week, she felt compelled to talk about the need for programs to help prevent gun violence in the neighborhood.

“Too many of us are burying our children because of the violence,” said Warsame. “Our community is underserved, no one is investing in our youth and supporting them.”

The area she said lacks support and programs to engage and inspire youth. Even the leadership program Ali attended is no longer available, she said, because its two-year funding ended in 2015.

“When something happens, the media will show up, the police come but then everybody leaves and we are left on our own,” she said.

“There is no prevention; no one works to prevent these things from happening.”

In a rally on Thursday morning, Warsame called on the provincial government to visit the neighbourhood to assess the lack of programs and support in the area, as well as to see the impact of the violence on the community.

“We need sustainable programs to keep them busy and give them opportunities to learn and grow and have choices and to build their skill and relationships with each other,” Warsame said. “If there is none of that, then they are on their own and outside with no support.”

North Etobicoke Coun. Michael Ford, who represents the area, attended the demonstration and said he plans to hold a meeting with city officials, the community and the school board to address the issues the neighbourhood is grappling with.

“It’s really important that the city is investing in support programs for the community,” Ford said Thursday. “We need to come together and learn what the path is to move forward and make the difference that we need.”

The Somali community in the area, Warsame said, is also gathering on Saturday to discuss what they can do immediately to respond and prevent future violence.

Ali’s funeral will be held on Friday at noon in the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Etobicoke. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses.

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