When Habiba Adan lost her 26-year-old son, Warsame, in 2012 to gun violence, she decided she would not just grieve for him, but make a difference in the Somali-Canadian community.
She started Positive Change, with other women of the community, to make sure another mother does not have to go through what she did. The group works towards reducing gun violence in the Somali community, working with the police, addressing issues in education and housing and working with other community partners.
In recognition of Positive Change’s good work, they were awarded a Leading Path Award by the Divisional Policing Support Unit during National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. Along with Positive Change, Superintendent Ron Taverner and Superintendent Scott Baptist were also recognized with the same award.
The theme of this year was ‘Shaping the Future Together,’ to honour the countless volunteers and professionals who come together for the betterment of victims of crime every day.
On accepting the award on behalf of Positive Change, Adan said she is among many who make a difference.
“I have the privilege of accepting this award on behalf of an amazing group of volunteers, my colleagues and friends… so, from all of us, thank you,” she said. “It is a core mandate of our organization to raise awareness of the impact of violence on our families and community and we work together to stop it.”
Chief Bill Blair acknowledged the work Positive Change had done in the last few years. “You are a great example to all communities on how you can make a difference… and ensure no other family can experience what your family has experienced,” said the Chief.
“Extraordinary citizens stepped forward, not simply content to mourn the loss of a young man, but to come together to make a difference… to their community and to make a difference for all young men in their community and the city of Toronto to reduce violence.”
He also acknowledged the Service’s role in making a difference.
“I want to acknowledge leadership within my own community – the two senior officers and the Somali Liaison Unit that are here with us. We recognize that, if we are going to keep out city safe, we need to do it with real partnership.”
The creation of the Somali Liaison Unit has been a huge help in changing the conversation with our community-police dialogue
The Somali Liaison Unit was formed in early 2013, in 23 Division, which is home a large Somali-Canadian population. Superintendent Scott Baptist, who was at the time an inspector at the Division under the leadership of Superintendent Ron Taverner, helped apply for provincial funding for the unit. Both men were honoured with the Leading Path Award for their work on creating dialogue with the community.
Baptist said that the Somali community in Dixon needed assistance but an approach of enforcement was not the best way to go about it.
“(We needed to) develop trust and confidence between residents and officers,” he said. The process has started, added Baptist, but it is just a start.
Baptist said that, while he was honoured to have received the award, it was the officers in the Somali Liaison Unit that made it a real success. From after-school homework programs to attending local mosques functions to yoga programs and other community oriented activities, an “overwhelmingly positive outcome” was created.
“Officers doing this kind of outreach work in the community really do make a difference,” said Baptist.
Adan also acknowledged the work by the unit and the police.
“The Toronto Police Service has been excellent in supporting our cause towards change. In 2013 we began with a simple conversation with officers at 23 Division – an area where a lot of Somali-Canadians live. Like us, officers were (affected) by the violence,” she said.
“The creation of the Somali Liaison Unit has been a huge help in changing the conversation with our community-police dialogue. The Unit has been helpful, sensitive to our culture, positive in their approach. Today the neighbourhood is safer, which is a huge accomplishment, and one that everyone in this room should be proud .”