A Surrey grassroots group is calling on the federal government to deny visas to musicians seeking to enter Canada if their songs promote gangs or illegal drugs.
The group, Wake Up Surrey, was formed in the wake of an anti-gang rally that drew thousands of people to the plaza outside city hall earlier this month. The rally was held following the June 4 shooting murders of Jaskarn Singh Jhutty, 16, and Jaskaran Singh Bhangal, 17, in Campbell Heights. Investigators have not connected the homicides to gangs or drugs but consider the shootings to have been “targeted.”
|IHIT identified the victims of Monday’s double homicide as Jaskaran Singh Bhangal, 17 (top), and Jaskarn Singh Jhutty, 16. (RCMP handout)|
Sukhi Sandhu, an organizer of the new Wake Up Surrey movement, rolled out a raft of “short term” asks at a press conference recently including a call for “any artist or singer that promotes gang lifestyle or glorifies violence that is antisocial fabric, that that be highlighted and reported to the CRTC and if these types of singers are coming here to Canada, that their visa be denied.”
He said the group is also asking local banquet halls to prohibit music or acts that promote gangs, drugs use or violence from their facilities.
“The banquet halls in Surrey have come together and they will be passing a motion to add to their rental agreement that someone, anyone who is renting their facility, whether it’s DJs or dance, that there be a provision in it prohibiting any type of music that is glorifying gang activity, drug activity, violence against women or anything antisocial.”
Sandhu noted that “over the past 24 years the South Asian community has lost over 200 of our youth all across Metro Vancouver and over those years we’ve had many task forces, we’ve had many discussions, we’ve had many reports, but we haven’t found a solution,” Sandhu noted.
“Wake Up Surrey’s objective isn’t political,” he said. “Nobody on our working committee has any political ambition.”
“This is parents-driven Wake Up Surrey, it has no political ambition or attachment to any party or the fall election, it’s about finding a solution.”
The group is developing a one-year action plan, Sandhu said. “It is not going to work in silos. Our strategic plan, we’re going to put together about 55, 65 recommendations. We’re going to hold people accountable.”
Sandhu said the group is asking for Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner to have a “community round table” with federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and his provincial counterpart Mike Farnworth “at the earliest convenience, on the public safety in this city. We need our politicians to roll their sleeves up. Too often the buck is passed.”
|Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner|
“It’s time to stop passing the buck. It’s time for accountability,” he said. “There’s an outcry of expectation. There’s an outcry for accountability.”
Meantime, Hepner said Surrey has applied for $1.5 million over five years, totalling $7.5 million “which is the maximum,” from the $325 million that the federal government has earmarked for nation-wide gang violence prevention.
“We are asking for the maximum and we expect to receive that maximum,” Hepner said, “because we’ve received assurances from the federal government that they’ll look kindly on that application.”
“Here are the facts,” she said. “Fifty per cent of the city’s budget is public safety. Eighty per cent of the city’s budget over the past five years for all of the increases to the budget went to public safety.”
Wake Up Surrey also wants to see more police officers hired, a community court established in Surrey, implementation of a “Surrey Accord,” for CSIS to report to the national security intelligence committee on where illegal drugs are coming from and how they’re “infesting out communities,” and for Farnworth to meet with South Asian principals, vice-principals and teachers “working on the front line, in the grassroots.
“They see these kids every day — they want to bring a focus group together and put a strategic plan from their end,” Sandhu explained.
The group also wants all MPs and MLAs to visit all public schools within their constituency catchment areas and then “provide a report to the community” about what they’ve learned. “We will put that as an appendix in our report,” he said.
Moreover, Wake Up Surrey wants prosecutions involving gangsters “fast-tracked” through the courts.
“Cracking down on these gangsters, get them charged quickly, fast-tracking their cases, getting them behind bars and getting them off our streets.”
And on the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada, Sandhu said, “is bursting at the seams already with policing issues.
“The federal government hasn’t even recognized the social consequences, the health consequences of marijuana legislation, so there’s got to be a better formula otherwise there’s going to be a serious problem in our city, it’s going to add to another layer of social illness and I don’t think the federal government has properly legalized this.”