[Above: Facebook link courtesy of Kuldip Singh]
“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”
That was the loud and clear message that was delivered with massive force on Wednesday evening outside Surrey City Hall as anger, shock and dismay rocks the South Asian community at the “Wake Up! Rally” in the wake of the horrific execution-style murders of 16-year-old Jaskarn Singh Jhutty (Jason) and 17-year-old Jaskaran Singh Bhangal (Jesse), both students of Frank Hurt Secondary School in Surrey.
Neither of them was known to police though the homicides were targeted, according to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. Their bodies were found on the roadside with gunshot wounds in the area of 192nd Street and 40th Avenue on June 4.
The organizers of the rally included well-known community figures Gurpreet (Lucky) Singh Sahota, Sukhi Sandhu, Kuljit Kaur, Meena Gill, Saima Naaz, Ashiana Khan, Baljeet Jhand, Bali Lady B, Jag Hundal and Steve Purewal.
Sahota, Editor of Akal Guardian Punjabi weekly newspaper, on behalf of the organizers, said: “With these callous murders, two more names were added to a list of over 300 South Asian males whose lives have been lost to gang violence in the past two decades. The age of the victims in last week’s senseless killings has the community reeling in shock. Within the outpouring of grief and fear over this latest tragedy there is a palpable sense of trauma that a crisis point has been reached and that something must be done to wrestle our youth from the clutches of this deadly criminal lifestyle. In response to this, we as concerned individuals, from a variety of non-partisan backgrounds, have come together to seek a critical intervention comprising both long- and short-term measures to save the lives of our children.”
However, he pointed out: “As volunteer grassroots activists, it is neither our intention nor objective to represent a community or people. We are simply a group of concerned residents who feel it is crucial to ensure that preventative and proactive steps are taken regularly to understand and counter the epidemic of regional gang violence. We have begun round-table discussions, with experts from law enforcement, educators, counsellors, mental health workers, parents and the students themselves to understand the issue better. We realize that this disease affecting our community is a problem two decades in the making, and seeking overnight solutions will be gullible, and hence our approach must be nuanced, holistic and thorough.”
Sahota, who is a well-known Punjabi journalist, said: “A community is in grieving, and where we must together seek solutions, we must also begin to heal together, and understand the challenges our kids face on a daily basis at school and outside.”
He added: “We realize that the process will take time, and we are committed to the creation of a multi-stakeholder committee to ensure that this becomes a “living issue” and not a reactive exercise to violence in our community. Solutions must be preventative and proactive, and measures must be taken regularly to address the threats confronting our youth. Mandatory participation from the Mayor of the City of Surrey, Chief of Police for Surrey RCMP, senior leadership from the Surrey School District, other elected officials and members of the public with expertise in relevant subject areas (mental health, social work, counseling, threat management, to name a few) will ensure that a structure exists that holds stakeholders and participants accountable for the well-being of our children in Surrey. The situation has reached a crisis level threatening to corrode a thriving community which many have sacrificed and worked hard to build and sustain. Concern, frustration and anger must be replaced with collaboration, corrective action and implementation.”
THE organizers of the rally later sent a list of “10 Short Term Objectives” for all levels of government to deal with:
- Request that each Member of Parliament and MLA visit all the elementary and secondary schools in their constituency catchment area. Report required by end of June 2018.
- Request the federal Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, to travel to the City of Surrey to participate in a community roundtable with various key stakeholders regarding the allocation of $325 million for anti-gang program and crime funding. (https://globalnews.ca/news/3867423/gun-crime-federal-government-funding/ )
- Request that a citizens’ committee be appointed to monitor all social media and songs in Punjabi which promote drug culture, gang lifestyle, violence towards women and anti-social fabric. These types of songs / videos should be flagged and directed to the CRTC.
- Request all Sports and Cultural organizations which host / organize tournaments and festivals to be vigilant in prohibiting any consumption of alcohol in their parking lots during events.
- Request Provincial Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, to facilitate an initiative to meet with a focus group of South Asian educational leaders in the Surrey School System (Vice Principals and Principals). We request this group to put forward a 12-month action plan which is measurable and will be monitored.
- Request the implementation of the Surrey Accord. When such a tragedy / crisis occurs within the City of Surrey, we request the Mayor to take immediate steps to facilitate an emergency conference call with all MPs and MLAs who represent various Surrey constituencies. Leadership starts on DAY 1.
- Request that CSIS provide a high-level report to the National Security and Intelligence Committee regarding the drug trade and its detrimental effect on our local communities.
- Vancouver has a population of approximately 650,000 and a police force of 1,300, whereas the City of Surrey has a population of 525,000 and 800 officers. As such, currently we request the RCMP to recruit officers with experience in diversity-based communities and expertise in key need based areas such as school liaison and anti-gang, etc.
- That we humbly advocate the South Asian community support the working group’s desire in creating awareness regarding the need to highlight Public Safety, Law and Order and School district programming becoming focal points for the upcoming fall city election.
- British Columbia currently has the highest threshold (charge approval standard) in proceeding with charges and criminal prosecution of gangsters. Further, we request the Attorney General and Ministry of Public Safety to take immediate steps in exploring new initiatives to address the growing number of problems within the justice system such as many criminal cases now threatened because of court delays. (http://vancouversun.com/news/crime/gang-crime-still-plagues-b-c-but-isnt-front-and-centre-this-election)
June 13, 2018
Dear Organizers and Participants of the Rally on Gang Violence,
As the federal Members of Parliament representing Surrey, we would like to express our sorrow, anger and concern over the senseless and tragic loss of life that recently occurred in our much-loved community. As more lives have been lost to gun violence in Surrey, we must come together as a community to confront this issue.
The House of Commons is sitting this week, and so we are unable to attend the rally on gun violence, with deepest regrets.
It is unacceptable that gun and gang violence continue to plague our communities. The federal government understands this, and that is why we are taking concrete action to combat crime in our communities.
In March, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale hosted a summit on Gun and Gang violence, which brought together stakeholders from across the country. It is critical that we engage cooperatively with all levels of government, Indigenous communities, youth and community organizations, and law enforcement in order to end the scourge of gun and gang violence.
In this effort, we are investing $328-million over 5 years, and $100-million annually thereafter to tackle the increase in gun related violence and gang activity in Canada. Funding for this program will begin flowing this fiscal year and will bring together federal, provincial and territorial efforts to support community-level prevention and enforcement efforts, build and leverage unique federal expertise and resources to advance intelligence related to the illegal trafficking of firearms, and invest in border security to interdict illicit goods including guns and drugs.
We are also investing $43 million annually in the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) to develop cost-effective ways to prevent crime among at-risk populations and vulnerable communities. This includes $5-million over five years to help expand the YMCA’s PlusOne Mentoring program in four cities across Canada, including Surrey.
Building on the proven success of this programming at directing at-risk youth away from interactions with the justice system, it is a reflection that a multi-pronged approach to public safety is paramount.
Under the NCPS, our government has also launched the Youth Gang Prevention Fund, which funds initiatives that prevent at-risk youth from joining gangs, provides exit strategies for youth who belong to gangs, and offers support to youth so they do no re-join gangs, in communities where youth gangs are an existing and emerging threat.
Calls for applications under the NCPS are now open, and we encourage interested parties to reach out to our offices for more information.
To strengthen our firearms laws, our government has also introduced Bill C-71. This legislation will prioritize two things: public safety and effective police work while striving to treat law abiding firearms owners and businesses in a fair and reasonable manner.
Among other things, this legislation will:
* Enhance background checks on those seeking to acquire firearms – looking at the full life history of a person, including any history of mental illness associated with violence, not just over the last five years.
* Require that whenever a non-restricted firearm is transferred, the buyer must actually produce his/her licence, and the vendor must verify that it is valid.
* Ensure the impartial, professional, accurate and consistent classification of firearms by restoring a system in which Parliament defines the classes and then experts in the RCMP make the technical determination about the class into which a particular firearm falls into, without political influence.
Through these, and other efforts, as well as collaboration with all levels of government and stakeholders, we are targeting gun and gang violence in our communities.
Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue facing Surrey. As your Surrey Members of Parliament, we are committed to working with the provincial and municipal governments, community organizations, concerned citizens, and police forces to end gun violence in our communities.
* John Aldag, MP for Cloverdale—Langley City
* Sukh Dhaliwal, MP for Surrey—Newton
* Ken Hardie, MP for Fleetwood—Port Kells
* Gordie Hogg, MP for South Surrey—White Rock
* Randeep Sarai, MP for Surrey Centre
SURREY MLAs Jagrup Brar (Surrey-Fleetwood) and Bruce Ralston (Surrey-Whalley) on Friday said in a statement that they commend the passion shown by the parents and young people who attended the anti-violence rally in Surrey on Wednesday evening.
The statement added:
Ending the gun violence that is taking young lives and threatening bystanders will continue to require strong, strategic prevention and enforcement efforts – with a long-term commitment from all levels of government, police, teachers, parents and others, and the New Democrat government is doing its part.”
Last fall, Premier [John] Horgan announced $31.3 million over three years for critical enforcement and public safety initiatives, including:
- New, dedicated anti-trafficking teams with the provincial RCMP and CFSEU-BC, the provincial gang unit.
- More boots on the ground to go after, arrest and prosecute dangerous and violent drug traffickers, to disrupt the drug supply line in communities.
- Enforcement resources for all police agencies through the province’s gang unit – including more funding for projects that specifically target traffickers, to stem the flow of fentanyl into B.C.
- Increased support for police-based community outreach and funding for multidisciplinary approaches.
- Bringing together mental health, social service and police agencies to proactively reach people who are seen to be at elevated risk.
The government has also begun immediate work on some of the 37 recommendations of the Illegal Firearms Task Force. An intelligence-led illegal firearms trafficking team has been created by expanding the mandate of CFSEU-BC as the province’s gang unit. This establishes a centralized firearms intelligence hub to compile and analyze data. CFSEU-BC’s illegal-firearms strategy also includes cross-border investigations into domestic and international firearms traffickers.
Given the proven track record of Surrey Wrap in helping hundreds of families and turning young students away from gangs and crime, one of our government’s priorities was to secure its future and work to alleviate the waitlist. In October, an annual funding of $500,000 was secured for the Surrey Wraparound program, commonly known as Surrey Wrap. Since this funding was secured, the capacity for the program has increased by 10 percent.
This is just a start – the New Democrat government will be announcing further, strategic investments in gun and gang prevention and enforcement in the months ahead, with emphasis on measures that can help save lives.