South Asian Community Tackling Youth Violence
Vancouver, DEC 01, 2009
South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence (SACCAYV) had a very successful community update on Friday, November 27. The event was hosted at the Riverside Palace in Richmond, compliments of the owner Michael Ghira and the Ghira family. This event highlighted a brief historical context of the emergence of SACCAYV, its action plans, achievements and future goals.
The honourable guests were Solicitor-General Kash Heed and Superintendent Dan Malo, the head of the Combined Forces of Special Enforcement Unit. Attendees included prominent members of the community, police, media, MP Ujjal Dosanjh, and MLAs Harry Bains, Raj Chouhan and Dave Hayer. Importantly, representatives of various Sikh Gurdwaras also participated. These include Nanak Niwas Gurdwara (#5 Road, Richmond), Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouver, Gudwara Khalsa Darbar Sahib, Akali Singh Sikh Society, Gudwara Sukh Sagar, Canadian Ramgarhia Society, Sri Ravidas Sabha and Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar. Additionally, members of various community agencies including Charan Pal Gill, CEO, Progressive Inter Cultural Services Society, Kulwinder Sanghera, President/CEO Music Waves /Radio Red FM and Surrey School District 36 officials Teresa Campbell and Rob Rai as well as Peter Kwok and Chris Brodie from SUCCESS also took the time to join us.
In response to the escalating youth violence in our community, representatives of various gurdwaras, concerned community members including the current Solicitor-General Kash Heed (formerly with the Vancouver Police Department) came together in 2002 and decided to create an umbrella organization, a community coalition that would speak with a united voice and take action against youth involvement in gang violence and drug-related crimes. The result was the formation of the Sikh Societies of Lower Mainland (SSOLM) .Its members met with the then Attorney General and Solicitor -General as well as Metro Vancouver mayors, MLAs, MPs, police chiefs and school officials seeking support for addressing the issue of youth violence and drugs in our community. It is to the credit of intensive lobbying by SSOLM and Indo-Canadian media that BC Integrated Gang Task Force was created in 2004.
As the scope of SSOLM expanded, a number of agencies including two academic institutions-Langara College and Kwantlen Polytechnic University- came on board. In order to make it more inclusive and broaden its base, SSOLM evolved into the South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence (SACCAYV) in August 2007. With its numerous activities, SACCAYV has emerged as a strong voice representing the South Asian community. Its primary goal has been to build community capacity by bringing together a number of organizations under one umbrella, act as a collective in addressing the issue of youth violence and speak with one voice to policy makers and law enforcement agencies.
First, SSOLM and then its successor SACCAYV, have strived to create more awareness amongst youth and parents about drugs and violence. In this context, the Indo-Canadian media print and electronic has done a commendable job. These collective efforts have made a big difference in keeping our younger generation on the right track. However, it is acknowledged that a lot more needs to be done and the community must continue in its efforts to keep our youth safe and protected from gang activities and recruitment. This update event was an attempt to make the community, policy makers and law-enforcement agencies aware of what SACCAYV has accomplished so far and plans for the future.
SACCAYVs Media committee chair Indira Prahst, Research committee chair Dr. Gira Bhatt and myself as chairperson of SACCAYV apprised the attendees of the valuable work that SACCAYV has done so far. This includes continual dialogue with the policy makers, hosting youth activities, community forums, developing a website (www.saccayv.com), a video, a flyer and publishing and distributing of a gang information booklet-Understanding Youth and Gangs-in English and Punjabi, for parents. Close to 5,000 copies of this booklet have been already distributed to parents while the demand still remains very high. Above all, SACCAYV has been able to act as a lobbyist group for more support and services for youth and parents. Our future plans include the continuation of these efforts as well as collaborate with different levels of the government in finding suitable exit strategies for youth who want to get out of the shady
BCs solicitor- general Kash Heed gave the audience an overview of the provincial governments increasing role in combating youth violence. He reinforced his strong commitment to preventing youth violence. Solicitor -General Heed commended SACCAYV for its on-going efforts and offered his full support for continuation of these efforts. Superintendent Dan Malo, officer in charge of the BC Integrated Gang Task Force (now Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit) stated that currently there is very high level of co-operation/collaboration between different police forces in the region. He further stated that there are 123 gangs operating in BC. In answer to a question, superintendent Malo stated that the gangs have now become more multicultural and fluid. The previously apparent ethnic lines are fast disappearing. He further stated that the average lifespan of a gang member is approximately 27 years now.
Superintendent Malo also commended SACCAYV for its commitment and efforts in combating youth violence in our community.
SACCAYV is not a service-providing agency. It is not a for-profit or funding agency. Rather, SACCAYV is a non-profit, non-political and an inclusive organization dedicated to serving the community. SACCAYVs main objectives are 1) to co-ordinate and support all efforts directed at prevention of drugs and violence amongst our youth and 2) to continue to lobby for more resources and services for South Asian youth and parents. SACCAYVs main goal is to build a community capacity and work as a bridge between the community and policy makers.
Chairperson, South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence