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'Rest in peace, my beautiful boy': Sammy Yatim's mother welcomes coroner's inquest verdict

Sahar Bahadi, mother of Sammy Yatim, said the verdict represents 'some justice
Sahar Bahadi, mother of Sammy Yatim, said the verdict represents 'some justice

Sammy Yatim's mother says she welcomes recommendations from a coroner's inquest into his shooting death by a former Toronto police officer, but she will only have closure if the proposals result in action.

Sahar Bahadi said the verdict represents "some justice" for Yatim, who was 18 when he died on July 27, 2013.

He was shot several times while alone on a streetcar holding a small knife. He died by homicide, the inquest found. Cause of death was a gunshot wound to his chest.

Bahadi spoke exclusively with CBC Toronto on Friday, one day after the coroner's inquest made 63 recommendations, including making body-worn cameras mandatory for frontline officers and providing financial and mental health support to families of people killed or injured by police.

"The verdict didn't bring Sammy back, but it assured us that his blood was not gone in vain," Bahadi said in a prepared statement she read during the interview.

"I'm proud of the recommendations and changes that have been implemented to save those in crisis and those who suffer from mental illness, including our police officers, and (to) provide everyone equal resources when needed," she said.

"I'm also proud that we can finally get the mental health care that we needed 10 years ago. Ten years is a long time, but it's never too late."

Sammy Yatim, 18, died after he was shot several times by James Forcillo, a Toronto police constable at the time, on an empty streetcar on July 27, 2013.
Sammy Yatim, 18, died after he was shot several times by James Forcillo, a Toronto police constable at the time, on an empty streetcar on July 27, 2013.

Sammy Yatim, 18, died after he was shot several times by James Forcillo, a Toronto police constable at the time, on an empty streetcar on July 27, 2013. (Facebook/The Canadian Press)

Bahadi said it's been a "hard decade" for the family since Yatim's death — "overwhelming, tiring and exhausting."

"The system has failed us. It is good to know that this verdict will hopefully prevent a tragedy like this one from happening again," Bahadi said.

If the coroner's inquest recommendations are acted upon, she said there is a chance for a healthy environment for future generations.

In 2016, the officer who shot Yatim, then-Const. James Forcillo, was found not guilty of second-degree murder, but convicted of attempted murder. Bahadi said she carried her firstborn child's ashes to court during Forcillo's trial.

"He is always with me," she said.

Forcillo, sentenced to six and a half years behind bars, was granted full parole in 2020.

Const. James Forcillo will learn the result of his appeal of his attempted murder conviction in the 2013 shooting of Sammy Yatim.
Const. James Forcillo will learn the result of his appeal of his attempted murder conviction in the 2013 shooting of Sammy Yatim.

In 2016, James Forcillo, was found not guilty of second-degree murder, but was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to six and a half years behind bars. He was granted parole in 2020. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Bahadi said she is impressed with the recommendation calling for a new training system that focuses on de-escalation and bettering communication among officers who arrive late to a scene and that will allow intervention from fellow colleagues when warranted.

She said she also appreciates the recommendation urging the Toronto Police Service to expand the role of in-house psychologists to identify and address "fitness for duty issues" to make sure everyone is able to do the job of policing.

If followed, she said she hopes the recommendations will enable the public to have trust in police again.

"Police are very important for society. But a human being has faults. This fault was so huge. It was huge for us to lose my son's life," she said.

'Death of Sammy is a bleeding wound forever'

As a pediatrician, Bahadi said she never imagined that she would lose one of her children. She said the recommendations "absorb" some of her anger, but, "The death of Sammy is a bleeding wound forever."

She said a key recommendation is for financial and mental health supports for family members of those killed or seriously injured in a police interaction, which Yatim's parents and sister had asked for.

"We were alone," Bahadi said.

Sahar Bahadi and Chris Glover
Sahar Bahadi and Chris Glover

Sahar Bahadi reads a prepared statement to CBC's Chris Glover in an exclusive interview. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

Bahadi had a heartfelt message for her son:

"We miss you and love you, Sammy. We hope you are proud of the history you have made thus far. Rest in peace, my beautiful boy."