Jurors deem Soleiman Faqiri’s death a homicide as inquest concludes with 57 recommendations

Jurors on the coroner's inquest into the death of 30-year-old Soleiman Faqiri have ruled that his death should be seen as a homicide. As Shauna Hunt explains, the ruling is not legally binding.

By Shauna Hunt and The Canadian Press

Jurors have deemed the death of a mentally ill man at an Ontario jail a homicide and made 57 recommendations, including that the province create a designated “inspectorate” for corrections.

The jury examining the circumstances of Soleiman Faqiri’s death began deliberating Friday afternoon after hearing about three weeks of evidence.

Their conclusion came just before noon on Tuesday.

Faqiri’s brother, Yusuf Faqiri, said the jury’s verdict validated what his family knew: that his brother was killed.

“I believe this is an important statement, not just for Soli and my family, but for Canadians,” he said.

Jurors expressed their condolences to the Faqiri family after delivering their findings and recommendations, and said they hoped the inquest would lead to positive changes for others in Faqiri’s situation.

Faqiri, who was 30, was arrested in early December 2016 after allegedly stabbing a neighbour while experiencing a mental health crisis.

The inquest has heard that Faqiri, who had schizophrenia, appeared increasingly unwell during his time at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, but did not see a psychiatrist, nor was he taken to hospital.

He died on Dec. 15, 2016, after a violent struggle with correctional officers that broke out as they were escorting him from the shower to his segregation cell.

Coroner’s counsel urged jurors to rule his death a homicide, a proposal that was opposed by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents correctional staff.

Lawyers for the union wanted his death to be ruled accidental.

Jurors at inquest are required to make a finding on the cause of death, but it carries no legal liability. No charges have been laid in Faqiri’s death.

In an interview with CityNews, Yusuf said he does feel some relief after seven years of fighting, asking for accountability and justice.

He said his hope was for people to see the facts of this case, to show “how people who are mentally ill are treated in the correctional system,” and provide an opportunity to change that system.

The jury issued a total of 57 recommendations focusing on the delivery of health care – particularly mental-health services – in corrections, training for correctional staff and management, and use-of-force practices, among other issues.

They include establishing a provincial agency to oversee and deliver health care in correctional facilities, creating formalized relationships between institutions and psychiatric hospitals, and ensuring people in custody who have acute mental health issues are assessed by a mental health professional within 24 hours of a court order or remand.

“The ball is in the premier’s court right now to implement all of these recommendations, specifically this provincial watchdog to oversee corrections.”

He said the pain of losing his brother will never go away. “Soleiman paid with his life. We need to do better so we can prevent another family’s loved one who pays with their life.”

When asked if he thinks the OPP will reopen the case, Yusef said they don’t have the confidence that will happen.

“The facts speak for themselves, 60 policy breaches, 50 bruises, legs and hands were tied, pepper-sprayed twice and still no criminal accountability … no charges. That’s a question Canadians should ask, ‘Why didn’t the police press charges?’,” said Yusef. “We don’t have confidence in the OPP, frankly, ending up doing the right thing.”

CityNews has reached out to the OPP to ask if the police service was considering reopening the investigation, but have not received a response at this point.

Yusuf said they will be holding a vigil on Saturday in Dundas Square to mark the seven-year anniversary of Faqiri’s death.

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