#TorontoIsFailingMe: I tried to improve my neighbourhood and got arrested
Mohamed Farah, 34
In 1989, when I was nine, my parents fled the escalating civil war in Somalia, moving me and my two siblings to Windsor. I fit in quickly at school, where I made friends from Lebanon, Czechoslovakia and Cambodia. I loved it there: we would roam around the neighborhood, trade cards and comics, catch frogs. Then one day a friend of my mother’s told us about a neighbourhood in Toronto called Dixon with a growing Somali population.
A few months later, in the summer of 1992, we moved into a three-bedroom apartment in Dixon. Back then the area was called Little Pakistan. The first time I went grocery shopping with my mother, somebody yelled, “Go back to where you came from, Paki!” There was a sense of different ethnicities struggling to coexist in the area. You had people of Irish, Italian, Pakistani, Polish, Ukrainian, Indian and West Indian descent. In Windsor, the community was diverse, but we stuck together.
At the same time, many more new refugees were coming to Canada from our home country. I remember crossing the street on my way home from school and seeing some of the Somali kids dive to the ground after a car backfired. I was lucky that I had never lived through their traumatic experiences.
My mother was an entrepreneur in Mogadishu, and noticed that there was a demand for Somali traditional and religious clothing among the women in Dixon. She got a second-hand sewing machine and started making clothes. One of the rooms in our apartment became her store, so my siblings and I had to share a room. I acted as a translator for many of my mom’s clients, helping them fill out official forms and going to meetings with their kids’ teachers.
As I got older, I got involved in community work out of concern for other young Somalis. I joined the Dixon Youth Network, which runs initiatives like a basketball league to try and keep the kids off the streets. The youth in the neighbourhood lack access to services like a recreation centre and after-school programs. They hang out on street corners and get into trouble with the police. It’s hard to avoid—guys at my high school asked me to sell drugs at local clubs. Instead I chose to work as a cook at The Keg. I saw those guys drive up to the restaurant in their fancy cars. But they soon got arrested for drug offences.
One day, a guy from the neighbourhood approached me with a video that appeared to show mayor Rob Ford smoking crack. He asked me to act as a broker and try to sell the video to a news company. I was wary of getting involved but thought making the video public would expose corruption. Then the whole thing blew up in my face: I was arrested when the police raided our building and some of the other Dixon towers as part of the Project Traveller investigation. I was charged with possession of a gun, even though I’ve never owned one in my life. The charges were dropped after a year. Instead of the former mayor being held accountable, Dixon got stigmatized, and my relationship with other Somalis in the neighbourhood became strained.
The police have since rolled out initiatives to rebuild a relationship with the community, but that’s not going to solve the root problems: unemployment, underfunded schools and a lack of services such as family counselling. I know parents who are worried about their kids joining extremist groups or gangs. If the issues of neighbourhoods like Dixon aren’t addressed now, I can see how they could escalate into a situation like the Ferguson riots.
—as told to Aparita Bhandari
15 thoughts on “#TorontoIsFailingMe: I tried to improve my neighbourhood and got arrested”
“Instead of the former mayor being held accountable, Dixon got stigmatized, and my relationship with other Somalis in the neighbourhood became strained.”
And that’s what the community should understand; the portly privileged white man handing out dollar bills is hurting you, not helping you. Stop electing people that are out to hurt you while only helping themselves.
…and yet that same community voted him back in with a large majority. There’s no complaining at that point.
@kfromaz If you think Beverly`s story is astonishing…, last pay check my brother’s girlfriend actually earned $7381 putting in 10 hours a week from home and they’re roomate’s mom`s neighbour was doing this for seven months and got over $7381 part time from their laptop. the instructions available on this page,
If John Tory really wants to repair the damage that Rob and Doug Ford caused he should offer Mr. Farrah a job as a civic employee involved with community outreach or as a member of the Police Board.
Do we know that for sure? Did Ford win in the Dixon poll(s), or were their votes overwhelmed by their well-off war-on-the-car/keep-my-taxes-low neighbours.
Wow. Way to completely ignore systemic racism and institutionalized oppression. Probably the community knows a littler better than you do that it doesn’t matter which white man is corrupt and in power – they will ALL get away with it and leave the community to suffer. Might as well vote for a white man that pisses off the others because there is no way any mayor or city council will ever watch out for Dixon anyway. Or did you think John Tory doesn’t benefit from his complete and utter privilege?
Wow, so 15 people agreed with my point, however unfortunately it flew over your head. Ward 2 had options, such as http://andraydomise.ca/ , but they went for more of the same. No one stopped to ask “how was my situation in this community improved under the Fords” before just voting for, again, for more of the same. It doesn’t have to be “us against them”, or “our white guy against their white guy”.
He got over 70% of the votes in Ward 2 of which Dixon/Islington area is sub 20-23. Pretty safe to say they backed the big boy.
Anybody who is actually trying to make things better deserves our encouragement and support. Robbie does not deserve a second chance.
Actually, the polling station where most of the Dixon tower residents would have been voting was the only one where Ford did not get the majority of the votes for the council position, Munira Abukar did.
Are you from the area? I am, its not that easy, its not that black and white. Rob Ford is very polarizing.
I don’t see how he was trying to better the neighborhood? He was trying to broker a deal, I’m sure he would have been paid for his trouble. When there were months and months of the whole ‘the video doesn’t exist’ bullshit, this guy could have stepped up and said that he had seen the video.
Trying to profit from corruption is not cleaning up corruption.
Ford got 58% of the votes in Ward 2. Even with a very miserable prognosis ahead of him, Ward 2 voters put this sick incompetent man back in the councillor’s seat. Still I guess he’s a better councillor than Doug.
He did a huge interview on the CBC Fifth Estate.
He’s right. Multiculturalism doesn’t work. I don’t see Somalia importing millions of immigrants. Maybe its time white people had their own country, and then we wouldn’t have to hear incessant complaints from immigrants about how our country is not good enough for them.
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