I was sad to hear about the stabbing death of Abdul Rahim Mah Jemei last week.
I've known his mother for a couple of years. The family came to Canada five or six years ago. Originally from Eritrea, they came via Sudan as refugees. Fleeing a couple of war-torn countries to seek out a better life for their children.
Sadly one of their children, 22 year-old Jamei, was stabbed to death beside the Y on Vaughan Street last Wednesday. Police think it was an unprovoked attack and the teen suspect they have in custody is apparently known to them.
In a Free Press article about how the African community has come together to support the family Lambros Kyriakakos, president of the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg, said that 'homicide highlights the vulnerability of youth who are newcomers to Canada'.
And this brings me to an aside ...
I don't know all the details of the stabbing so I don't direct this towards Jamai or his family's situation but something I have wondered about is how we have used immigrant and refugee housing as a way to get people living in areas that most Winnipeggers wouldn't.
Sometimes it's the bleak-ish, old semi industrial parts of the core like (like IRCOM House on Ellen). sometimes it's places like Central Park, home to a lot of Canadian born and bred gangs and criminal activity. The mainly African influx has began turning that neighbourhood around but for many years things were rough and as a result came African-based youth gangs. We live with the legacy of the assumption that an African youth in the Central Park area simply must have some sort of gang involvement which, of course, is not true.
The latest announcement of a refugee and immigrant housing complex is for 271 - 273 Princess, the 'Peace Tower', that will be built a couple of blocks from the core's triangle of homeless shelters.
It is a great way to get people settled. The land is cheap and you don't have to worry about a fuss from the neighbours. Still, perhaps it would be nice to mix things up a bit and put housing in different areas of the city rather than dropping refugees into the worst that the city has to offer and expect them to deal with what most of us can't.
The Housing Circumstances of Recently Arrived Refugees: The Winnipeg Experience (PDF)
This report describes a two year study of recently arrived refugees in the city of Winnipeg, and discusses their significant housing challenges. The research findings highlight the changes in circumstances that occurred over the two year study period. The report was written by researchers at the University of Winnipeg and released by Prairie Metropolis Centre at the University of Alberta.