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'Really troubling': Burnaby South MP, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urging change after gang-linked shootings

"Burnaby as a community is a beautiful and really safe community, so these are really shocking things to happen."
A silver BMW was sprayed with bullets on May 13 in Burnaby, killing 23-year-old Jaskeert Kalkat and seriously injuring two others.

"I'm really worried about it."

Those are the words from Burnaby South MP and leader of the federal NDP Jagmeet Singh after a pair of gang war shootings in the city during the past two weeks, plus numerous others throughout the Lower Mainland. 

On May 8, 19-year-old Toni Dalipi was shot to death outside a vape store on Sixth Street near 13th Avenue in Burnaby at about 7 p.m. Police said it was a gang-linked shooting. 

Murder charges were laid against 20-year-old Ahmed Riyaz Tahir two days later, on May 10. 

Then, on May 13, more gunshots rang out at Market Crossing shopping centre on Marine in South Burnaby, just after 8:30 p.m.

That shooting killed 23-year-old Jaskeert Kalkat and seriously injured two others, a man and woman, both in their 20s, according to IHIT spokesperson Sgt. Frank Jang. All three victims were known to police, and investigators believe all three were targeted in the hit, Jang said.

In an interview with the NOWSingh said he shares concern and worry with his constituents, saying the increase in gang violence calls for changes on the surface but also deep down. 

"My residents and people in the community are worried about the violence that's flaring up in Burnaby and in the Lower Mainland in general," he said.

"This is really troubling and a couple things we need to do is we need to make sure we're tackling some of the immediate things like the symptoms."

Singh says those symptoms include doing more to provide resources to the Canadian Border Services to make sure they can keep the border safe, having more supports for young people and creating opportunities for them to grow. 

"We also need to look at the more complex question in the root to violence and making sure young people have options and a bright future, to see that there is hope that they can pursue a career and education. 

"We know that a lot of the experts talk about a hopelessness and a lack of opportunity that pushes people towards the violence that we've seen. 

"There is going to be immediate steps and then some more complex, longer steps we need to take." 

With Singh working at both the provincial and federal levels of government, he would like to see more action taken on guns that come in over the border into Canada while also hoping for work provincially and federally to add more important resources. 

"On the federal level, we know that one of the biggest sources of guns that are being used in the violence and shootings. These are often guns that are smuggled across the border, so we need to a better job at preventing that from happening, so that's really vital. 

"The real complicated question is, 'How do you tackle violence?' and a lot of experts have spent a lot of time figuring out that it's not going to be with a simple solution. It's going to take hard work, making sure communities have resources and programs for youth.

"After-school programs, sports programs and opportunities to work and opportunities to get an education, these are all things that help people see a bright future that doesn't lead to a path of violence and crime."

Since the rise in gang conflict, many have asked what the RCMP will do differently and calling for change to get a better handle on the increase in anxiety and fears.

"A lot of people are talking about a couple of things. One is making sure there is better integration, that forces are able to work over different boundaries," Singh added.

"I spoke with some of the folks on the ground, some of the political leaders on the ground about how there isn't enough to go after some of the organized crime."

Singh also claims systemic racism is playing a large part in why police resources are not being deployed to where they should be.

He believes this could potentially help stop gang activity. 

"The other problem, frankly, is that there is still a lot of systemic racism in policing. That systemic racism means that instead of going after real threats, systemic racism means that people are being targeted just because of the way they look and they aren't actually a threat or a concern. Those are then resources that are poorly used." 

He specifically pointed to a recent incident involving the province's first Black appointee to the B.C. Supreme Court along Vancouver's Seawall. 

On May 14, Justice Selwyn Romilly was detained while out for a walk near Stanley Park.

He was put in handcuffs after officers stopped him while searching for a "dark-skinned man" around 40 to 50 years old who had been kicking and punching people along the Seawall. 

Romilly, who graduated from law school at UBC in 1966, is 81 years old.

Vancouver Police Department Chief Cst. Adam Palmer said it was a mistake, calling it a dynamic urgent call as police had received several reports of a man assaulting people. He says the officer was going on information from the public and believed Romilly matched the description and location of the suspect. Palmer said the "actual suspect" was later arrested in the area.

"Police officers are human beings, we make mistakes," said Palmer after the incident. "We don't always get it right."

There are accountability measures for police, he noted. To that end, Mayor Kennedy Stewart has contacted the police board and says they will review the incident.

"They stopped the only black man they could see," Singh said. "[He] had nothing to do with what was going on and all of the officers involved there that went to stop this man, could have been used to deal with whatever the actual problem was instead of wasting all of their resources on someone who had nothing to do with that. 

 "That's a problem that we see with cases broadly, is that resources don't get used right, in a good way and it means people are made to feel like they don't belong and also means that the people that are actually causing risks to security and the safety of others aren't actually being investigated. 

Singh said it's shocking to him to see the amount of violence and gang activity that has recently surfaced, as he sees Burnaby as a quiet, safe and secure place for people to live.

"Burnaby is a community, in a lot of ways a quiet community. People feel really safe and secure. It's a place that is slower and quieter than Vancouver and a lot of people enjoy that about it," he stated.

"It's one of the most diverse ridings in all of Canada, so lots of people from lots of parts of the world, many of whom left unstable situations in their home countries or are in unsafe situations and make Canada their home and really want to build a life that's safe and secure for them and their families so it is really shocking and is really disturbing given what the riding is. 

"Burnaby as a community is a beautiful and really safe community, so these are really shocking things to happen."

- with files from Chris Campbell and Cornelia Naylor, Burnaby NOW, Brendan Kergin, Vancouver Is Awesome

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