Emotions ran high at an anti-gang and guns forum in Surrey Tuesday night that drew more than seven hundred people in the wake gun violence and one death in that city in recent weeks.
One father who lost his son to violence two years ago made a desperate plea to parents.
Gurpreet Saran gained the attention of hundreds when he took to the mic and called for an end to the culture of silence he says is prevalent among the South Asian community who fear drawing negative attention to their families.
“We have to come out of the shell we are, we are not leaving those old traditions we have from Indian, we don’t want to be rats, we don’t want to be this, today I was sitting at Harry Bains’ house, and thinking that this family is also going through the same thing now.”
The body of his son, Amritpal Saran, was found dumped on Colebrook Road in February 2013.
Former so-called wanna-be gangster Jesse Sahota, who now works with at-risk teens, encourages parents to speak up.
“Parents are sadly often the biggest victims when their children become involved in gangs. But at the same time, they can also be the biggest enablers. I have witnessed this in working with families as many parents are reluctant or accept or acknowledge that their children are engaging in such negative and criminal behavior.”
Chief Superintendent of the Surrey RCMP Bill Fordy challenged the public to provide information.
Surrey RCMP say those involved in the turf war between Somali and South Asian drug traffickers are stonewalling police
“To you the community, I ask you if you can do more, I ask all of you to ask yourself, if you can do more.”
The Mayor of Surrey, Linda Hepner, echoed the plea.
“It pains me that a life has been lost amidst this senseless violence, and it has to stop.”
Lack of options given as reason for youth turning to gang life
Randy Dhillon works with at risk youth in the Surrey School District and says youth need better options if they want out of the gang life.
“Just to get the youth up in to more active roles in terms of better after school activities to get them away from these kinds of issues and things.”
Vie Neufeld is a concerned resident and says there needs to be more communication.
“Because I think a lot of us don’t actually know how to solve the problem. I think if we could actually sit down and start having some conversations and find out what to do about this.”
Calls for more outreach and communication to combat natural fear of police amongst new Canadians and landed immigrants
One woman spoke to the fear some immigrants who come to Canada have of the police and the justice system, so more outreach is necessary.
Another man said the Somali community should not be targeted as a whole, and another says those involved in the drug trade fear being called a rat or a snitch for speaking out.
One young man also challenged everyone in the auditorium to write down the tip line, saying “don’t think of it as snitching, think of it as savings someone’s life .”