‘I don’t hate you, I’m just mad,’ Yosif Al-Hasnawi’s mom tells paramedics at sentencing

October 26, 2021
Sentencing starts for 2 Hamilton paramedics guilty in death of 19-year-old Yosif Al-Hasnawi
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Amal Alzurufi sat still in a Hamilton courtroom while the Crown read her victim impact statement Monday, telling the judge at the sentencing hearing of two paramedics about how she almost died giving birth to her son, Yosif Al-Hasnawi, in 1998.

Al-Hasnawi barely survived then too.

“Thankfully, we were in the care of the most trusted people … doctors, nurses and paramedics,” read Linda Shin, one of two Crown prosecutors, at the hearing, which continues Tuesday.

Four years after Al-Hasnawi was shot and killed, Alzurufi sat across from Steven Snively and Christopher Marchant, who were found guilty in June of failing to provide the necessaries of life to her 19-year-old son in 2017.

Snively, 55, and Marchant, 32, both wore dark suits and sat nearly motionless during their first day of sentencing.

The landmark case in Canada marked the first time paramedics have been found guilty for a part in someone’s death as a result of their actions while working. Experts have said it may change how emergency responders do their job.

Liberal MP for Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, Filomena Tassi, paid her respects to Al-Hasnawi’s mother, Amal Alzurufi, at a memorial for her son in 2017. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Al-Hasnawi was shot outside of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre after trying to intervene as two people confronted an older man.

Snively and Marchant, who attended the scene, testified in their trial they thought a BB gun pellet hit Al-Hasnawi, but it was actually a .22-calibre handgun.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Harrison Arrell found they made numerous other mistakes including not leaving the scene fast enough, going to the wrong hospital, not following protocol for penetrating wounds and lifting him dangerously.

Al-Hasnawi died an hour after being shot because he was bleeding internally.

While the shooter was acquitted of second-degree murder in a decision now under appeal, the two paramedics are awaiting their sentencing.

Muslim community feels Canada has changed: statement

“I don’t hate you, I’m just mad  … he didn’t deserve to die like this,” read Alzurufi’s statement.

“Nothing is more painful than losing a child. It feels like someone has ripped your heart out of your chest.”

On Monday, Arrell heard other statements from Al-Hasnawi’s brother, Ahmed, and father, Majed. They’re both in Iraq observing Al-Hasnawi’s burial site.

“Yosif was the backbone of the family and a part of me has been lost for good,” Shin read on behalf of Ahmed.

“I can’t remember being happy ever since he’s been gone. I used to be a normal kid.”

Firas Al Najim, human rights activist, and Al-Hasnawi’s younger brother, Ahmed Al-Hasnawi, hold a photo of Yosif at a memorial in 2017. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Al-Mostafa Islamic Centre director Amin Al-Tahir, another witness at the trial, wrote a statement saying Al-Hasnawi’s death is being felt beyond Hamilton.

“The Muslim community feels that Canada has changed from the best, safe, secure and prosperous country in the world to a dangerous place which is no different than countries infested with violence and hate crimes,” the statement says.

He added that Muslim families are afraid to seek help when in danger and afraid to leave their homes or pray in mosques.

Defence submissions to continue

Shin and fellow Crown prosecutor Scott Patterson requested Snively and Marchant serve a 2½-year sentence.

She said the paramedics showed no remorse for Al-Hasnawi or his family and “robbed” him of his only chance to survive. She emphasized the mistakes they made were especially egregious given they are experienced medical professionals with training.

Shin added it was proved beyond a reasonable doubt the paramedics caused Al-Hasnawi’s death.

Arrell only heard part of the defence’s submissions Monday. They’re asking for a conditional sentence of six to nine months, followed by probation and 100 community service hours.

Michael DelGobbo, counsel for Snively, said his client is a first-time offender with a good family and respect from his work colleagues. He said Snively being fired and dealing with the stigma of the very public trial has made his life harder. 

He also read excerpts from multiple letters of support for Snively.

“Steven Snively is a valuable member of our community who always stepped forward and donated his time to numerous activities,” read a letter from Mario Posteraro, the president of Local 256 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union who was representing local paramedics.

Arrell said he’ll hand down the sentences for the two paramedics at a later date.

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