A free Youth Empowerment Forum is set for this Thursday night at Surrey City Hall to discuss “youth gangs, drugs and violence.”
The public event is organized South Asian Family Association (SAFA) and has been in the work since March, said one of the organizers Rina Gill.
While some have assumed the event was planned after two South Asian teenagers were killed on June 4, in what police are calling a “targeted” incident, Gill said this event has been in the works since March.
But, Gill noted the issue has “always been a hot-button issue in Surrey.”
A media release notes while “Surrey and other areas have attempted to address the gang violence that is taking place on the streets of Surrey. However, despite exploring means to put an end to this issue, it doesn’t appear to be going away.”
The forum aims to delve into solutions, such as making parents aware of what to watch out for.
“What are some signs that may indicate that a person is involved in drugs and gangs?” a release states. “There are so many leaders in South Asian and mainstream community who can be the role model or facilitator for mobilizing the community to address this need.”
Gill said Andrew Bacchus from the Ministry of Ontario will be keynote speaker at the event, who she said is “considered a national gang expert.”
She emphasized the event is not about “criticizing or judging Surrey, in terms of what is in place, we simply want to know what other cities and provinces are doing to tackle the issue” and brainstorm ideas as a “united front.”
The event, inside city hall’s Centre Stage (13450 104th Ave.), will run from 6 to 9 p.m., and will kick off with Bacchus as keynote speaker.
“Then we will break off into groups which will be led by each of the community organizations involved,” Gill explained, including KidsPlay and Youth Transforming Society. There will then be a breakout sessions and a speaker panel discussion.
“It’s an opportunity for it to be interactive, where attendees can share their ideas, thoughts and suggestions,” she said. “We will compile a report at the end, and submit it to city hall and the RCMP, and present what we think are solutions…. We appreciate experts in the field but we also want to hear grassroots, from the community, from youth themselves. That’s why we took a different approach.”
Organizers say there’s no need to register for the event.
Meantime, a rally is planned Wednesday night outside of Surrey City Hall, by a different group.
Organizers of that event say they aim to get Surrey’s leaders “off their behinds” to make the city safer from gangs.
The rally is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at City Hall Plaza.
In a press release sent Monday morning, organizers say the rally is not a political one or a platform for any individual or slate. Rather, it is being organized by the “South Asian community in Surrey, with support from South Asian media.”
“We publicly invite our local MLAs, MPs, councillors and mayor of Surrey to come and present their report card,” a poster advertising the rally reads. “If they will not show up, we will know where they stand.”