The community of South Asians in BC has been alarmed by the loss of over 115 youth in gang-related violence in the last 15 years. While the media remained focused on portraying this community negatively by blaming its religious and cultural practices as the source of promoting violence and criminal gangs, the community leaders have focused on prevention. The South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence (SACCAYV) was formed in 2004 which became a powerful voice of the community with a strong political clout. It approached academic institutions including the Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) as well as police agencies of BC to work collaboratively with this group to target prevention of youth involvement in violence, drugs, and criminal gangs. Acknowledging that:
a) protecting youth from the lures of criminal life is a shared responsibility of all; parents, teachers, researchers, service providers, police, and policymakers, and
b) integrating academic knowledge with community resources is critical for addressing the issue of youth violence KPU initiated “Acting Together: Community University Research Alliance” (AT-CURA) project.
This federally funded project represents a multi-disciplinary and multi-partnership network of seven academic researchers and 11 community agencies; SACCAYV being one of them along with the City of Surrey, Surrey School District, Surrey RCMP, and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of BC which comprises 14 police agencies designated as BC’s integrated anti-gang police force.
When the RCMP Assistant Commissioner Norm Lipinski and his team approached AT-CURA for collaboration on its comprehensive anti-gang strategy, a unique plan was developed for community outreach that would involve the integration of research, resources, and the commitment of the academics, police, and the South Asian community represented by the Sikh temple leadership. The goal was to draw from the research knowledge generated by the AT-CURA team on protective factors, the intelligence gathered by the police on how criminal gangs operate in BC, and the wisdom of the local community about what may work for prevention of youth involvement in criminal gangs.
This approach to knowledge mobilization led to a collaborative strategy whereby academic researchers, police, and the local community agencies would work together to clearly outline an action plan for gang-prevention and implementation of evidence-based youth programs in the community. In view of the Sikh temples being the hub of social life for the majority of South Asians in Metro Vancouver, this community was selected for the first run of the KMb initiative.
The Phase 1 of this initiative was launched in June-July 2013 with a 2 ½ day residential summit, and a follow-up 1-day community forum in July 2013.
The follow-up 1-day community forum was attended by 149 participants from across the community.
Phase 2 which is supported by the Wisdom 2 Action KMb Initiative, has three elements:
I. Pilot Project (Dec 2014-Feb 2015): Evidence-based gang-prevention 8-week curriculum for youth programs developed and implemented jointly by the police and the Sikh Temples
II. “Understanding Youth and Gangs: A Parent Resource”: English – Punjabi booklet
III. Police-Sikh Leadership Residential summit: 1 ½ day, June 24-25, 2015.
You can learn more about this project on the AT-CURA website, and by following the links to the articles and video below: