Commentary By Amrik Virk
Surrey will not live in fear. While gun and gang violence have marred our beautiful, vibrant city, community organizations and forums continue to be defiant demonstrating that there is a keen interest in reclaiming our streets.
Many in Surrey are afraid that family members or friends could be caught in the crossfire. Others fear their loved ones will be pulling the trigger.
The recently expanded B.C. Guns and Gangs Strategy is appropriately multi-pronged, given the complex roots of the violence. The provincial government has committed millions to add more specialized anti-gang units that detect and disrupt gang crime, establish an illegal firearms task force to stem the flow of guns into the wrong hands, and create a new Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach to counter gang recruitment efforts and encourage existing members to leave.
As well, Crime Stoppers will receive $450,000 to sustain its successful cash-for-guns and gang tip-line programs. Local organizations fighting gang recruitment, youth crime and violence against women have received more than $375,000 in civil forfeiture grants this year. But money is only one part of the solution, and police can do only so much.
At the individual level, with understanding comes the ability to facilitate change. For parents, teachers and community leaders, one of the first steps in combating gang violence and recruitment is recognizing the warning signs and confronting those involved. It’s not an easy to conversation to have – but left unsaid, it helps to perpetuate the violence. I’ve said before there is no glamour in this lifestyle. It ends in jail or a coffin.
Surrey residents are not backing down from having these difficult conversations. This past weekend, I was honoured to take part in a community event at Dukh Nivaran Gurdwara Sikh Temple. This event, organized by Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) provided a forum for families to come together, have meaningful discussions and use a faith-based approach to counter the influence of gangs.
An inspiring highlight of this forum was a young temple volunteer’s heartfelt words about gathering strength from his faith. He reminded attendees about putting good things into their bodies and minds and rejecting what is not healthy. He challenged parents to stop ignoring the blatant signs of gang activity.
Too often, only after tragedy strikes, parents say they had no idea their child was associated with a criminal organization. That’s why forums and dialogues need to continue. For our part, government will continue to foster dialogue through ongoing awareness and engagement efforts – and I know police and community leaders will lend critical, local support.
As this meaningful work continues in Surrey, I want to commend the Surrey RCMP and integrated police teams working to address gang issues, as well as students and the community at large, for having the courage to stand up and take action.
Thank you to the organizers from the Dukh Nivaran Gurdwara Sikh Temple for showing leadership and support in hosting this workshop. There is strength in our community. We want to keep young people out of gangs and safe from harm. To any of the families who fear that one of their own is engaged in gang life, start the conversation. It’s much too late to wait.
Virk is MLA for Surrey-Tynehead