Justice for Satkar
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In Abbotsford, BC, young people are being murdered at a dramatic pace, and as the violence continues to escalate, the time for action is overdue. With the hundreds of signatures on petitions that were created after the deaths of Satkar Sidhu in February 2017 and of Jason Dhaliwal in January 2018, the public is showing concern about the safety of the community. As the number of casualties grows, law enforcement is failing to resolve the emerging threat to public safety.
With respect to law enforcement, we are concerned with how Satkar’s case has been handled. When Satkar’s homicide was announced, the police said he “had no criminal record, but was known to police.” It is inappropriate to stigmatize Satkar by indirectly implying he had interactions with the police. It is also unjust to imply he is somehow guilty of a crime without providing context or substance. When the police wrote letters warning of "critical danger" to the lives of suspected gang members, they did not write to either Satkar or Jason's family precisely because there was no reason to link them to criminality. The police also said they chased a car that passed the house at the time of the incident, caught it with a spike belt, and arrested three suspects who occupied the car. However, the police released them without any charges relating to the incident or even to the reckless driving during the high-speed chase. Since these suspects were not charged with any offences, they did not receive any conditions such as a curfew that could have limited future criminal activity. The police know exactly who these suspects are; yet, no progress has been made in the investigation and the suspects remain free from any consequences. There is nothing to prevent these suspects from committing future acts of violence. We therefore call for these individuals to be arrested, charged, and prosecuted.
Regarding closed-circuit television (CCTV), we understand the BC Privacy Commissioner’s concerns pertaining to its cost and violation of privacy, but at the moment, the safety issues are greater than the privacy issues. According to recent polling by Abby News, 69% of Twitter respondents and 81% of Facebook respondents said they support the use of CCTV. The cameras in Townline Hill were installed after the death of Jason's neighbour, another innocent bystander who is a victim of homicide, and we had come to rely on them for protection. This is why we are extremely disappointed in how the cameras were dysfunctional for a full month prior to Jason’s death and at the moment we needed them most. If the cameras are unreliable, they become self-defeating and wasteful.
We call for these questions and the relevant paperwork to be investigated: why were the cameras not working, why did it take so long to replace or repair the cameras, and who was assigned the responsibility of maintaining the cameras? We require answers for these crucial questions.
With respect to policing strategy, we are concerned that public safety and the ability of Crown counsel to prosecute is being undermined. In February 2015, the BC Police Complaint Commissioner began to investigate systemic issues with information gathering and warrants that had the potential to disrupt numerous prosecutions. In February 2017, the BC Supreme Court ruled that the investigation could not access evidence provided by informants, and since the investigation could not proceed, these issues remain unaddressed. In a recent drug trafficking case from February 2018, law enforcement failed to inform Crown counsel how its evidence was acquired, and with the breakdown in communication, the judge was forced to stay the charges. These cases show that the current policing strategy needs to be reformed.
In regards to public engagement, public forums have been organized; however, none of the relevant policing or political authorities have responded to our letters or invitations to attend. During the 2017 provincial election campaign, the MLA for Abbotsford-West, Michael de Jong, dismissed gang violence in Abbotsford as a “worldwide problem” that is bigger than the local issue. The Member of Parliament for Mission, Jati Sidhu, told the House of Commons claimed that the police are well-funded to deal with gang violence. These statements are not helpful when we see innocent bystanders and family members become casualties of a broken system.
It is unacceptable for their deaths to be treated as unavoidable while we are asked to assume we are safe so long as we are not “targeted.” As Abbotsford and Mission combined to become the murder capital of Canada in 2008, and since there have been 50 gang-related incidents recorded since 2014 including 5 homicides, the violence is ongoing. It is therefore not enough to introduce long-term projects when the community urgently needs a solution that addresses these issues right away. The time for action and reform is overdue.
Ministers Sajjan and Raybould, we appeal to you to intervene. Mr. Sajjan, we ask that you to help resolve this urgent concern in our community. Ms. Raybould, we ask that you investigate what the local representatives of the justice system are allowing to transpire in our community. We strongly urge you to look at the ongoing trend of inadequate police techniques leading to a stay of proceedings in criminal cases. In particular, we ask that you look at the Abbotsford Police Department’s failure to charge and prosecute the three suspects that murdered our beloved brother and friend. We ask that you look at the investigation or policing techniques that fail to provide closure to a growing number of devastated families who have lost loved ones.
Mr. Horgan, as premier, we ask that you work with Mayor Braun and Police Chief Bob Rich to identify cooperative solutions between local and provincial governments. MLAs Gibson, de Jong, and Plecas, we ask that you likewise take action as provincial legislators on behalf of our communities and your constituencies. MPs Dhaliwal, Fast, Sarai, and Sidhu, we ask that you also look into our concerns and take action as our representatives in the federal parliament.
In summary, we request that the aforementioned investigate and take action regarding these issues. We desperately need a strategy that effectively addresses the imminent dangers in our community. We ask that you look at whether the criminal justice system is fulfilling our constitutional rights to life, liberty, and security. Within the context of our democracy, we believe a dialogue based on a commitment to action and to meaningful change will be an ideal format to develop an effective meaningful solution.
Therefore, above all, we seek the opportunity to hold a formal public meeting with all the above noted relevant authorities.
Thank you for devoting your time to this urgent matter and we look forward to hearing from you in a timely manner.
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