My Journey to Canada: Part 8……by Balwant Sanghera
As our community has grown and prospered, so have the problems affecting it. These include alcoholism, domestic violence as well as the misuse and abuse of Canada’s lenient laws and policies. These things are not confined only to our community. Other communities also face the same kind of issues. However, the growing issue of gangs, drugs and youth violence seems to be one of the continuing major concerns in our community. Recent carnage on our streets has again brought this issue to the forefront.
As an educator and an active member of our community I have a very special corner for our youth. When I moved to Richmond in 1990, the issue of our youth getting into trouble with the law was just beginning. It reached such a point during the next few years that we were losing our youth to drugs and violence almost every week. The mainstream media was headlining these problems in their major newscasts. That prompted some of our concerned community leaders to get involved and do something about it. It was a privilege for me to be a part of that group of community leaders coming to-gether in order to address this problem.
The youth violence issue goes a long way back- to early 1990s. Since then, our community has lost a large number of our young men, mostly in their twenties and thirties, to drugs and violence. For quite some time the community was in denial. Then the blame game was on. The police was blaming the community for lack of co-operation and the community was blaming the police for not doing enough to stop this insanity happening on our streets and neighborhoods. Finally, having gone through denial and blaming, the community decided to do something about it.
It is a credit to a number of dedicated individuals, representatives of various Gurdwaras, organizations working with youth, police and concerned community activists, who have been working together in tackling this issue. Lobbying for and creation of the BC Integrated Gang Task Force in 2004 was a good start in this regard. This was as a result of strong lobbying by our media and the community leadership. Later on, this task force was expanded and renamed Coordinate Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU -B.C.)
Since its creation, this task force has done a commendable job both at the prevention and intervention levels. Though a lot has been achieved yet the basic problem is still there. Our young men continue to be victims of this carnage on our streets. In this regard, the role played by the Indo-Canadian media continues to be very beneficial, especially in educating the parents. As a matter of fact, without exception, our media-both electronic and print- has been playing a leading role in creating more awareness about making healthy choices by our young people. Also, a number of organizations have been working tirelessly in this regard. Nearly every day one hears about good parenting skills, spending quality time with our children, taking interest in our youth’s schooling and sports etc.
During the past few years, the dynamics of our community and problems facing it have changed drastically. Consequently, a number of new organizations have come forward to deal with these issues. Our youth has been taking a very active role in helping their peers .Regardless, the role of parents and caregivers in keeping their children on track still remains as the most important one.
Our children are our greatest resource. As such, as parents and caregivers, our children and youth should be our top priority. As a community, we need to provide them with enhanced educational, recreational and cultural opportunities. At the same time, we need to continue to systematically examine the causes and preventive measures by conducting evidence-based research within our community. The foundation for this work is already there. Now we need to continue to build upon it. Our community is very resourceful and resilient. By continuing to work together, we can save our youth from the scourge of drugs, gangs and violence. This should continue to be our top priority.
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