Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr speaks Wednesday night during an anti-gang rally held at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)

Rally cry in Abbotsford against gang killings

Forum on Wednesday night addresses causes of, and solutions to, gang violence

Tackling the gang issue will take a multi-layered approach and should involve the entire community, said several speakers at an anti-gang rally held Wednesday in Abbotsford.

The rally was hosted at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium by Wake Up Abbotsford and Wake Up Surrey, a pair of citizens’ groups formed in response to the gang issues in the two communities.

The forum, aimed primarily at the South Asian community, attracted more than 200 people and included about a dozen speakers who discussed the underlying causes of gang involvement and plans for addressing the problem.

Among the speakers was Kulwinder Singh Malhi, the father of 19-year-old Jagvir Malhi, who was fatally shot on Nov. 12 at Ross and Simpson roads.

Police have said Jagvir was not involved in gangs or criminal activity, but he knew people who were.

His dad, who spoke briefly, encouraged the audience to support Wake Up Surrey and Wake Up Abbotsford with their initiatives and think about how they can help.

“Our child has left us. We must make it so that no other child leaves us,” Kulwinder said in Punjabi.

RELATED: Murder victim Jagvir Malhi was not involved in gangs, says IHIT

Mayor Henry Braun said the level of violence in Abbotsford is unacceptable and must stop. He called for plans that are “measurable and achievable” to help conquer the issues.

Braun said this includes addressing problems with the criminal justice system, including a cumbersome process that makes it difficult for police to obtain search warrants and for charges to stand up in court.

He is also critical of the fact that Crown counsel, and not police, determine whether charges should be laid against an individual.

Braun also said people in the community, especially parents, need to speak up when they see signs of criminal activity.

“Remaining in a cone of silence is unacceptable … Many of the young men who are being sucked into gang life are living with their parents, and I find it difficult to believe that the parents don’t know what’s happening,” he said.

Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr encouraged families to reach out to the police department – particularly the gang crime unit – for help or support when they are facing issues with their children.

RELATED: Gang Busters: Abbotsford Police gang crime unit tackles the issues

“There are too many people in this community that are too concerned about shaming the family or coming out to say there’s a problem in their family. We have to work together if we’re going to make a difference,” he said.

Serr said the Abbotsford Police Department is addressing the gang problem with several initiatives, including early-prevention programs in the schools, a mentoring program for at-risk youth, and investigations and charges against known gangsters.

Other speakers discussed the underlying issues that lead to gang involvement, including the yearning for a connection and a sense of belonging.

Shenan Charania, now a transformational and leadership coach, spoke about his involvement with gangs 20 years ago.

He said he moved to Canada from Kenya at age 11 and began skipping school when he was bullied. He began connecting with kids who were going through similar experiences, and he felt like he belonged.

Charania said that by age 13, he was stealing cars and by age 14 was using cocaine. He was selling drugs by the age of 17, which, because of the risk, led to him carrying a gun and wearing a bullet-proof vest.

A few years later, he was doing home invasions – “because that’s where the money was” – and was transporting guns from the U.S. to sell in Canada.

One night when he was “drugged out and drunk” at a nightclub, his brother called to say their house had been shot at.

“I had to either make a choice to continue, retaliate — prove that I’m a gangster – or start getting the hell out of this life,” Charania said.

Jag Khosa of the Combine Forces Special Enforcement Unit – the province’s anti-gang agency – agreed that kids join gangs because they are looking for a connection.

He urged parents to become more involved with their kids and ask questions when they see signs of gang involvement such as carrying more than one cellphone, driving rental cars, and carrying cash that they say they earned, for example, by working at a warehouse.

Khosa said if parents see such signs, they should ask for support to help their child change direction.

“I’m sick and tired of breaking the news, when we go into someone’s house at 2 a.m., ‘Hey, your kid’s dead because he was shot.’ It stays with us, too, as police officers. Trust me, I take that home,” he said.

Other speakers at the rally included representatives from the two Wake Up groups, the South Asian Community Resource Office, the Women on the Rise group, and the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association.

Sukhi Sandhu, an organizer of Wake Up Surrey, said initiatives planned in Abbotsford for the new year include youth and parent outreach programs at the Sikh temples, parent workshops at local schools, after-school programs for kids and a Punjabi helpline.

He also said the citizens’ groups will be developing a collective strategy – with specific initiatives – which will be presented to the school district, police and the City of Abbotsford.

Women on the Rise said its plans include starting community patrols, translating existing resources into Punjabi and Hindi, and creating an awareness video.

RELATED: Deny visas to musicians who glorify gangs, Wake Up Surrey says

 

Staff with the South Asian Community Resource Office, which lost federal funding earlier this year, spoke Wednesday night during an anti-gang rally at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)

Shenan Charania, now a personal coach, spoke about his former criminal background, during the anti-gang rally Wednesday night at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)

Just Posted

New West mayor says Surrey won’t be left out in transit 10-year plan

Jonathan Cote one of two speakers at luncheon focusing on transportation, land use planning

UPDATE: Missing Surrey snowshoer found dead on Mt. Seymour

North Shore Rescue resumed its search today after efforts were temporarily halted Tuesday due to snowstorm

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside North Delta elementary school

The officer was intervening in an alleged assault outside of Immaculate Conception School when he and the woman were stabbed

Suspect charged after four Surrey banks were robbed in just four hours

Financial institutions in North Surrey targeted on Feb. 12

Surrey says WorkSafeBC should be in charge of asbestos abatement

City staff say WorkSafeBC has ‘greater knowledge, experience and expertise’ concerning asbestos

VIDEO: Nail-biter game against Germany tonight earns Langley’s Team Canada a win

Langley’s Team Tardi is 5-2 at the junior curling worlds in Nova Scotia, hoping to defend their title

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

Most Read