BY RATTAN MALL
SHASHI Assanand, nationally renowned registered social worker, was blunt when I asked her about the domestic violence situation in B.C. in the wake of the second-degree murder charge that former president of Surrey’s Brookside Sikh Temple Baldev Singh Kalsi, 66, faces in connection with his wife Narinder’s death, following a “domestic-related” attack on her on July 13.
Assanand, Executive Director of the Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services Society (VLMFSS) who has worked in the immigrant settlement sector as well as the anti-violence sector for over 35 years, said: “Domestic violence is so pervasive that I think that it’s not going to go away.”
She noted that when we don’t hear of cases such as the Kalsi one we start thinking the situation is improving. “But if you see in the mainstream community, there have been some really, really serious cases as well. So it seems that it’s something that’s not going to go away for a very long time, in my opinion,” she said.
Assanand, who received the prestigious YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Community Building just last month, added: “And the unfortunate part is that is everybody – government included – very quickly starts thinking maybe things are better; so maybe there isn’t any need to put in more resources in this area. So I think … everybody has to keep talking about it, otherwise people will think everything’s fine and then suddenly we’ll see like what happened [with Narinder Kalsi].”
She stressed: “I am actually quite concerned about the fact that even though the ministries across the government are really trying, what really needs to happen is [for them] to put money in the service, which I think is still lacking.”
Explaining the complexity involved, Assanand told me: “First of all, when you provide a service you have to bring awareness that women can come out, there are resources that they can seek, and help will be available.
“Then when they do come out, it’s not as if every woman wants to just come out – they take time, they want to know when I leave what will happen.
“And then when they finally do come out, they may not have resources. They may not know where to go and even if there are resources, they are not enough so that women may not get [what they need].
“Even in our office the waiting list in some cases is like two weeks. If somebody goes away on holiday, that person who speaks a particular language is not available.”
ASSANAND said: “I think really serious thought has to be put in into how we are going to support the women – and not just the women, the community for that matter.”
When I asked her if this meant making more resources available, Assanand said: “More resources and meaningful resources. Our prevention is excellent, but even for prevention you need bodies to go out and create resources that will educate the community – you know, what it’s all about … which means again you have to hire people who can go ahead and do this kind of work.
“If we ever think domestic violence is going to go away, it would be a very big mistake on our part.”
Assanand had earlier noted that there was domestic violence both in the mainstream community and the non-mainstream community. But she pointed out: “Of course, immigrants have problem. But what people don’t realize is that a person who was born and brought up in Canada would have a very different way of looking at things. For them leaving the home may not mean the same way as it would mean for an immigrant woman who doesn’t have any family here.
“So the type of support that people get is very much based on … the time that they have been in Canada, their exposure to what is available to them. So those things are very different in each culture. And the newer the culture, the harder it is for them to sort of seek any help.”
(PHOTOS: Shashi Assanand Photo courtesy YWCA /
Narinder Kaur Kalsi Photo courtesy Brookside Sikh Temple)