Hundreds of protesters marched the streets Monday in Mississauga, Ont., with the family of a 62-year-old man who was shot and killed by police.
They chanted “no justice, no peace, abolish the police” as they walked along a major thoroughfare with little police presence.
They were there for Ejaz Choudry, a man with schizophrenia, who was in the middle of a mental health crisis on Saturday when the family said they called the non-emergency line for help around 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Three hours later, Peel Regional Police stormed Choudry’s home, fired multiple shots and killed him.
The family demanded the force fire the officer who killed Choudry and continued their call for a public inquiry.
They also demanded change for those in crises.
“We want to create a system that is meant to be there for us,” said Choudry’s nephew, Hassan Choudhary.
“This system is not meant to be there for us. You’re in a mental health crisis and you’re faced by people with guns, people with body armour, people with authority over you, people demanding you, telling you what to do, instead of listening and trying to understand what’s wrong.”
At one point, the emotional crowd surrounded two police officers and screamed at them for change. Other protesters got between the officers and the crowd, which eventually marched on.
There was very little police presence otherwise.
The Special Investigations Unit, the province’s police watchdog, is probing the death.
Choudry’s family has previously expressed its lack of faith in the SIU to conduct a thorough investigation, a position they reiterated on Monday.
“I need justice,” said Rafaqat Ali Choudry, the man’s younger brother. “Police is to protect us, not kill us. How I trust again?”
The family’s calls for a public inquiry were supported by the Opposition New Democrats, but premier Doug Ford said he has confidence in the SIU.
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“My heart and prayers go out to the family that lost a loved one, no matter what happened,” Ford said Monday at a news conference.
“This is a terrible situation, unfortunate, but let’s see what the report says because I don’t believe in pointing fingers at any group, any organization, until we get the details because the details will tell the story.”
Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah issued a statement Monday evening and expressed his condolences, pledging full cooperation with the SIU investigation.
“We believe in collaboration with stakeholders, partners and communities to work for public policies that will restore the mental health system so that those with mental health concerns, receive the care that they deservedly need,” he wrote.
“Loss of life such as Mr. Choudry’s and those before him lead to deep impact that is felt and shared by the responding officers and all employees of Peel Police who work diligently to serve and keep the public safe in our communities.”
The man’s family has said that responding officers were shouting at Choudry in English, a language he didn’t understand.
The family said Choudry had periodically held a kitchen knife on Saturday. They said they pleaded with police to allow them to talk to Choudry. Police had taken everyone outside the home except for Choudry, the family said.
“My uncle was a harmless man, he had no power to hurt anyone, he could barely breathe at times,” Choudhary said.
“I don’t understand why someone that’s so harmless was so brutally murdered.”
The crowd was also there to protest other police killings of those in crisis, including a 29-year-old woman in Toronto who fell from her balcony while police were inside her home. The family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet questions the role of officers in her death.
They were also chanting the name of D’Andre Campbell, who called 911 for mental health help and was shot and killed by Peel police in a confrontation inside his home.
— With files from Nick Westoll