Members of the city’s South Asian community are pleased with a meeting held on Friday with the Calgary Police Service regarding drug-related crime in the city’s northeast.
About 20 people met at the Genesis Centre, including Calgary MLAs, school trustees and local community members.
The meeting came two weeks after Indo-Canadian community members held a rally at Nelson Mandela High School to bring awareness to recent gang and drug-related crime. Since April, four men from that community have been killed in three different attacks.
“We feel like our voice has been heard and police responded, the government responded, so we are very optimistic that things will be improved and action will be taken,” rally organizer Harcharan Parhar said.
Parhar said police told the group they are seeking help from the community.
“There are a few issues, I think, that are cultural issues. There is more awareness needed in the community,” Parhar said.
He hopes police and government can help parents educate their kids through workshops or seminars.
“The police said sometimes the families of the kids involved with drugs or the gangs, sometimes they know some information but they hesitate to give it. And sometimes parents notice something and they know the kids are involved but they don’t know how they can help the police or the law enforcement.”
At the meeting, community representatives also requested that the Calgary Board of Education provide more patrolling at local high schools.
“As we said before, the schools are more targets and the kids in junior high and high school are more targets, more at risk,” Parhar said.
A letter addressed to Parhar and Bhajan Singh Gill, general secretary with the Progressive Cultural Association of Calgary dated June 6 from then-interim Calgary Police Chief Steve Barlow, states:
“We can tell you that the current violence within the South Asian community is drug-related and involves drug trafficking from the street level up to the highest levels of organized crime,” the letter reads.
“The recent homicides, shootings and other violent incidents are an immense concern for the service and we are doing everything possible to ensure it stops.”
Watch below: A rally held in Calgary on June 2 aimed to raise concerns about recent gang and drug-related violence in the Indo-Canadian community.
The letter goes on to outline some of the steps that have already been taken or are currently being implemented to help deal with the issue such as a multi-year engagement plan that is being developed to educate the South Asian community on the perils of drugs and organized crime. That includes targeting parents in the community about what signs to look for in their children that would indicate gang involvement and how they can reach out for help.
Another school-based initiative includes school resource officer teams and members in higher-risk schools scheduling presentations with an “educational focus to deglamorize gangs and organized crime.”
The letter also said that directed patrols are being conducted on “several high-risk members of the South Asian community to ensure they are abiding by conditions imposed by the courts.”
Parhar said he’s pleased with the idea of authorities providing more tools for parents who may be concerned about bringing information forward.
“Sometimes parents are in fear that if they tell the police that maybe they (the children) will be arrested and put them in jail.”
Calgary police Supt. Cliff O’Brien was at the meeting on Friday. He said one of the things addressed was the importance of parents understanding what their children are doing.
“Understanding who they are hanging out with and where they are getting their money and where they are getting property from. And having those sometimes difficult conversations at the dinner table. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that some of unsolved homicides are solvable because somebody out there has that information,” O’Brien said.
Despite the recent homicides taking place in northeast Calgary, Parhar said he was told by police this is not just a problem for that quadrant.
“They said they are not dealing with only the northeast or the Indo-Canadian and South Asian communities, so it’s a problem all over the city. The shootings could happen anywhere,” Parhar said.