In the past few months, gang violence in the Lower Mainland has once again entered the headlines, with new instances of violence being reported each week. 

It doesn’t help that racialized communities, specifically the South Asian community, are being targeted and stereotyped due to the stigma that Surrey as a whole holds for being a “dangerous city.” 

Unfortunately, the narrative that typically plays out is the blame being put on parents for not supporting their children, whether it be emotionally or mentally, without understanding that many immigrant parents are working full time jobs, sometimes more than one, while also often carrying their own share of unresolved intergenerational trauma. 

While Surrey, B.C. and the South Asian community that lives here is often overrepresented in the media, this issue is not exclusive to this community.

In an interview with City News 1130 Harpo Mander, community advocate and General Manager of 5X Festival, spoke on the matter. 

“Gangs are not a South Asian issue. Gangs are not a Lower Mainland issue. They’re also not even a B.C. issue. Gangs are a Canadian problem. It’s members of the Canadian population, the Canadian society that is failing to succeed in forming their identity,” said Mander. 

Other community advocates have also warned about a potential risk of racial profiling, including when the names of 11 gang members were released to the public.

South Asian men already have a difficult time navigating their masculinity in Surrey, and are constantly having to second-guess the outfits they wear, the way they talk and act, and even considering if they should walk or take transit depending on the car they drive before stepping out into public. 

All these stereotypes and stigma makes it all more difficult for South Asian men to navigate their identity and masculinity in recent weeks for fear of experiencing racism or profiling. 

While these issues continue to impact the men and boys in our community, many have raised the question of what is needed to stop this pipeline altogether.

While there is no one answer, recently, the government announced that they will be investing in $8.6 million dollars for communities who are affected by gang violence, with 34 projects in total to help the youth be more informed on gang violence and crime prevention.

Listed below are some of the resources in Surrey that are being funded with trauma-informed approaches: 

  • STRONG - Staying True, Real, Original & No Gangs (British Columbia Borstal Association) will be providing an intervention program for the youth/adult’s involved in gangs, violence and other criminal behaviours. The program uses a trauma informed perspective with an understanding that trauma is often the root cause of negative behaviour. The program model is based on a series of therapeutic steps that are fluid, manageable, and designed to systematically encourage and motivate change in various areas of a youth's life, such as: safety, attachment, trauma therapy, emotional regulation, self-identity, esteem, confidence, accountability, and mentorship.
  • WRAP Program is an initiative designed by the Surrey School District to focus on helping youth aged 11-18 who are either involved in or at-risk of becoming involved in gangs or gang activity. The project will work one one one with case managers, outreach workers and a clinical consulting team to help decrease the number of youth displaying gang-associated behaviour and criminal activity. Activities will include unique in-house trauma-informed counselling services for youth and their families, supervised work experience, physical fitness classes, employment training programs, outdoor education, and community group outings.
  • BC Lions Football Club LIONS PRIDE will engage approximately 80 high-risk youth in Grades 8-12 in a prosocial youth mentorship and outreach program that highlights the importance of making positive choices, choosing alternate activities to gang involvement and engaging in dialogue surrounding mental health challenges, issues and supports.

With this amount of money given to programs to help assist youth who are at risk of being involved in gangs, is this enough to be helping racialized communities approach gang violence? 

Will there be a decrease in gang violence in the years to come with the announcement of the upcoming crime prevention projects? Will the racism, and stereotypes faced by the South Asian community along with other BIPOC communities ever cease and finally destigmatize the City of Surrey, as a whole? 

While it’s difficult to know the answer, particularly without a multidisciplinary approach that reaches kids from a young age, it is a place to start, so that young people and families in our communities recognize that there are places for them to seek help.

About the author

Shivani Devika

Shivani often likes to believe she is the queen of sarcasm, even though her jokes makes no one laugh except herself.

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5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.