One hundred cadets took part in a chartering ceremony for Canada’s newest air cadet squadron on Saturday.
The event at Tamanawis Secondary School in Surrey also featured several dignitaries including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
While never a cadet himself, Minister Sajjan said the organization is the best way to engage young people and teach them how to become effective community leaders.
Minister Sajjan also answered questions about the recent gang-related shootings in Metro Vancouver involving young people.
“The path early on that might seem really cool and fun, you might be tempted,” he said.
“But it’s not a path where you can contribute to your community and it’s not the path you want.”
WATCH: (Aired Sept. 8, 2016) Surrey’s anti-gang program having a positive impact
Chirag Chopra, a 17-year-old warrant officer, 2nd class, with the 278 Cormorant Squadron, said a love of flying was what drew him to becoming a cadet.
“We also learn survival skills and effective speaking,” he said.
Chopra added that cadets also offer a clear alternative to the wrong path.
“Cadets is amazing at keeping youth, in channeling their energies in a positive way. I do think is keeps them away from criminal activity,” he said.
“My team wanted to establish an air cadet squadron in Newton because of the risk to youth in this area,” said Captain Jag Masoun, Commanding Officer, 278 RCACS
“There is a lot of gang violence and crime. What we’re trying to do for these kids is show them that there is a better way, and to give them something to hold on to.”
The Cadet Program has been active across the country for the past 100 years.