Mentally ill deportee transferred to Alberta Hospital

Thursday, December 01, 2016
By Andrea Huncar

Abdikarim Gelle was transferred from the Edmonton Remand Centre to Alberta Hospital last Friday. (Provided by Asili Gelle)
Abdikarim Gelle was transferred from the Edmonton Remand Centre to Alberta Hospital last Friday. (Provided by Asili Gelle)

After 10 months in jail, Abdikarim Gelle was moved to the psychiatric facility last Friday

A deportee with severe mental illness who was held at the Edmonton Remand Centre for 10 months without charge has been transferred to the Alberta Hospital.

Abdikarim Gelle arrived at the psychiatric hospital last Friday.

His mother was relieved, as she was worried he might be transferred to a facility in Quebec.

“I am so happy that my son is not leaving Edmonton and I will be able to see him,” said Asili Gelle, who also thanked people advocating on their behalf.

Advocates have been urging authorities to relocate Abdikarim Gelle, 31, to a secure facility that could meet his mental health needs.

Up until last week, Alberta Hospital didn’t appear to be an option. Looking for an alternative, authorities raised the possibility of transferring him to a psychiatric hospital in Montreal. The potential move concerned advocates.

At previous detention reviews, officials and counsel for Gelle said they were told he was not a candidate for Alberta Hospital because compliance with treatment is sporadic and he can’t easily transition into the community afterwards.
It’s not clear what changed, allowing the transfer to take place. Alberta Health Services said it can’t discuss specifics about a patient.

It’s also not clear what will happen to Gelle, who is now the responsibility of AHS, once his condition stabilizes.

Ability to comply with treatment questioned

At the latest detention review on Monday, Gelle’s lawyer expressed concern that he would eventually be released on a community treatment order (CTO), which is supposed to help ensure mental health patients take their medication.

“Even though he’s stabilized, I’m not certain whether or not he would have the capacity [to comply],” said Ruth Williams, noting his trouble complying in the past.

The hearing adjudicator with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada agreed, saying imposing such a condition “is unlikely to be successful.”

Laura Ko referred to a letter from 2014 written by a psychiatrist who had treated Gelle. More than a year into his CTO, the doctor still considered Gelle’s functional disability to be “chronic, severe and ubiquitous” and Gelle “bereft of insight and judgement which is ostensibly irremediable.”

Advocate Habiba Abdulle urged authorities to implement an effective plan post treatment so Gelle won't reoffend. (Sam Martin/CBC)
Advocate Habiba Abdulle urged authorities to implement an effective plan post treatment so Gelle won’t reoffend. (Sam Martin/CBC)

The family advocate who worked with Gelle also echoed those concerns.

“It is good news that Abdikarim is out of prison but it is also very important that he stays at a controlled facility that will provide mental health support for him,” said Habiba Abdulle. “This is very important because if Abdikarim is off medication there is a strong possibility that he might offend again. I want him to be safe and supported but also keep the community safe.”

Gelle was detained after serving his latest sentence because federal authorities consider him too dangerous to be released into the community.

He has a lengthy criminal record that includes sexual assault, assault of a peace officer and assault with a weapon.

Deportation still the goal

Gelle is slated for deportation to Somalia, the country he fled with his family as a seven-year-old boy.

Government officials say they are having trouble removing him because the Somali government won’t accept people with mental illness.

Canadian officials have not been able to say whether that will change once Gelle’s condition is stabilized, but they still are aiming to deport him.

“The minister [Ralph Goodale] has been making continuous efforts in order to remove the person concerned to Somalia,” said hearings officer Sébastien Thibodeau at Monday’s review.

“However, due to mental health issues of the person concerned, his removal has been very complicated to execute. The detention of the person concerned is becoming lengthy and the removal is not likely to occur in the foreseeable future.”

Thibodeau said Alberta Health Services advised government officials that if Gelle was released they had a team ready to assess Gelle’s mental health needs and the danger he represents to the public.

Ufuoma Odebala-Fregene, an immigration consultant with Black Lives Matter Edmonton, said Gelle’s move to Alberta Hospital was “the right decision, reflecting the compassionate and humanitarian objectives of our immigration and refugee system.

“Abdi and his family can now focus on him getting better with our outstanding medical and social services support.”

Source: CBC News

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