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Ending Gang Violence in Metro Vancouver – Rally on February 22nd

Secondary schools in Vancouver employing CCTV surveillance. (Photo by Richard Smith.)

Secondary schools in Vancouver employing CCTV surveillance. (Photo by Richard Smith.)

Sometime when I was in high school – it completely eludes me as to precisely when – I was shown a video about gangs. It looked like it had been made in the early ’90s, and it told the story of a young man who was having trouble connecting and fitting in at school, who wasn’t finding any supportive ears at home; he is lured into gang life, and the class laughed at his posturing as he asserted himself with his ill-founded confidence. All I remember is that the man and his family were Chinese, and that I had a fairly neutral and blasé response to the video.

I can imagine that they may be using a similar (or perhaps even the same) video to reach out to youth on the issue now; that it’s still having about the same amount of impact as it did on me; and that teenagers today may be even more jaded than I was when I watched that video. It wasn’t about me, and never would be, I figured. I had my own troubles, I thought, that would likely connect with what that video was trying to convey.

Upon reflecting now, however, I realize that there have been many people in my life that indicated, often very indirectly, that they were (or are) feeling excluded. I feel a pang of regret to think I may have contributed to a larger avalanche with my neutrality or, worse, apathy. Talking to someone at the ChangeCamp meeting last week also made me realize how directly the seemingly-minor decisions of our local governments can further entrench people in their situations with few if any being the wiser to the outcomes.

I remember this now as I read Paul Hillsdon’s piece on what to do about gang violence, where he describes four courses of action that would remove some of the conditions that allow gangs to flourish. I’m a little ambivalent on the soundness of all his suggestions – for instance, legalization of all drugs might open a can of worms that our communities just aren’t quite able to handle just yet (though I’m certainly not speaking from a place of having consulted the literature on that) – but I’m in agreement that bolstering communities, especially through investing in education, is a great start to solving this as well as a host of other issues.

In my third year of University, I had the chance to do some research into intercultural dialogue and youth. This kind of action is where I personally skew when it comes to appropriate responses to gang violence – my (again, highly uninformed) opinion is that the recruiting makes a lot of use of racial tensions and social exclusion to appeal to people’s desire for attention, power, recognition, or influence. That said, I recognize it is generally a longer-term strategy (which is why our proposal took cues from a program for elementary schools) – it’s not an immediate solution, while the regional police solution Paul proposes is. That said, I also don’t think making teenagers (who do the sorts of things that teengers do) the enemy is right either (and from the looks of the picture above, some of this has happened since I left high school in 2002).

Paul and Trevor Loke are helping put together a Rally to End Gang Violence for Sunday, February 22nd, at Central City Plaza in Surrey (here’s the Facebook invite for the event). I won’t make it as I’ll be on a bus to Portland; but I encourage you to make the trek out to Surrey (and if you have a transit pass, to bring a friend along on your free fare).

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