Elman death ‘disheartening,’ reminder of risks civil society takes, Hussen says

Elman death 'disheartening,' reminder of risks civil society takes, Hussen says

OTTAWA — Federal cabinet minister Ahmed Hussen is calling the death of Somali-Canadian human-rights worker Almaas Elman devastating news for many people, including him.

Elman was reportedly shot dead in her car earlier this week while en route to the airport in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

She was involved with the Elman Centre for Peace and Human Rights in Mogadishu, a non-governmental agency founded by her family in 1990.

Her sister, Ilwad, made headlines in October when she was short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work at the centre.

Hussen, a former president of the Canadian Somali Congress, says the family from Ottawa went back to Somalia to help communities rebuild after conflict, which is something many Canadians do.

He adds that Elman’s death is a reminder of the risks humanitarian workers take to help others around the world.

“Targeting humanitarian workers is unacceptable and it’s meant to intimidate people from making those contributions, which is why we need to appreciate the folks who take that risk and go to those places despite those risks and make a real difference on the ground,” Hussen said Thursday.

Hussen himself immigrated to Canada in 1993, and after years of civil-society work, including to help women in East Africa access education, got involved in politics.

He was first elected federally in 2015 and two years later became Canada’s immigration minister. On Wednesday, he was re-appointed to the federal cabinet and made minister of families, children and social development.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting Thursday, Hussen said the Elman family has a long history of demonstrating Canadian generosity in Somalia, and expects them to carry on that tradition.

Although Hussen didn’t know Almaas Elman personally — he knows her sister Ilwad — he says it was disheartening to read about Elman’s death.

“The Elman family has been amazing … and finding that news was really difficult for a lot of people, including myself, because I know the contributions of that family and it has made and continues to make in Somalia,” Hussen said.

The Somali government said in a tweet that it is investigating and will bring those responsible to justice.

A Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman said the department is prepared to help the family.

In a tweet Friday, Ilwad Elman posted a note of thanks for “all of the love” and said that at Friday prayers in Mogadishu, the family will lay her sister to rest.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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