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Last night I promised you wouldn’t die – I rescind that promise.

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This is the written response to a real event which took place on Tuesday night at the shooting at 148th and 64th. 

Last night I promised you wouldn’t die.

I am now rescinding that promise.

Last night as I was driving home, I came upon what I thought was a car accident scene. I could hear you yelling for help. I could vaguely see your shape lying on the road in the dark.

I saw the cars in front of me turn around and speed away. As I came closer I could see you were lying on your side in a pool of your own blood. When I reached you, you said, “I have been shot. Please help me. I am dying. I can feel it.”

You had been shot multiple times. I could see blood pooling from two wounds in your back and what appeared to be another wound to your right arm.

I could hear someone on the sidewalk calling 911. A young Arabic speaking man was standing next to you, his bicycle behind him, the only witness. Or the only witness brave enough to stay and tell the police what he knew. They stayed and helped, others began to gather around but when I knelt down in front of you, we locked eyes. You begged me to help you. You wanted to know that we were not going to leave you there to die in the street alone.

I grabbed your shoulders and looked you in the eyes and I promised you that you were not going to die. I meant that promise. I am not a doctor and I have no way of knowing what damage had been done by those bullets but my gut told me that you were not going to die there.. You stopped yelling and laid your head on your arm. Your bloody hand grabbing mine.

You are young, good-looking, big brown eyes, strapping, strong man the same age as my own son. You are in pain, traumatized and at the mercy of strangers. You are begging us to help you. You need this community to save you. Your eyes said it all. We were strangers, together, on a wet road, in the cold, in the dark, in a pool of blood, holding on, waiting for an ambulance.

And they came. Police, ambulance, someone who seemed to know you. I stepped back and got out of their way.

When I got home I trailed your blood across my floor. I washed it out of my pants, off my shoes and out of my hair.

This morning I read in the paper that you are alive.

The paper also said that the police believe that the shooting was a targeted shooting because you are involved in the drug trade and that you weren’t cooperating with the investigation.

Everyone has a moment in their life when they are forced to stop everything and re evaluate where they are going and what they are doing.  This is your moment.

Someone wants you dead. If someone could actually shoot a gun properly, you would be dead now.

Your parents would be receiving mourning family and friends this morning. Your mother inconsolable. Your brothers trying to plan your service, choose your coffin, and decide your final resting place.

Your last breath would have been to die like a dog in a pool of your own blood on dirty, cold street holding hands with a stranger. This would have been your final moment. Your crowning achievement.

But you were given a second chance. There are very few second chances in life. Whatever damage the bullets did, understand this. Your community saved your life. Strangers, the police, the fireman, the paramedics, the doctors and nurses, the old man who donates blood every week, even the person that cleaned your hospital room this morning, contributed to saving your life.

This is the same community that suffers every time there is another act of violence. This is the same community that is at risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Five minutes earlier and I, with my van full of children, could have been a victim. Five inches to the right or the left and you would have picked up by the coroner instead of an ambulance.

So where do you go from here? I am not here to pass judgment on you or why you do what you do. I don’t live your life but what I am sure of is that this is the time for you to change your life. Clearly the choices you are currently making are not safe, healthy or good for you or for our community.

There comes a time when you have to stop looking at the past, at the circumstances that brought you this place and you have to start looking toward your future and the life you want to live.

We are all victims of some circumstances but we can choose our future path.  This community that saved your life are victims too. The community that came to your aid, also live and work in your chosen target shooting range. Young children were in the van behind the one you were in when you got shot. The police, fireman, paramedics, neighbours, and our communities are all drawn into your life without choice  and yet you turned to us for help…and we were there for you.

What will it take for you to stop? The fact that you owe us your life? For most people that would be enough? Is it enough for you?  Who has to die before it is enough for you?

The fact is that in that moment when we locked eyes, it wasn’t about money or status or being tough or brotherhood or misplaced identity and pride. In that moment, it was two strangers holding hands in the dark, trying to save something …someone …valuable. It was your moment of truth.  What was your life worth in that moment?

In your eyes I could see that you were experiencing what everyone experiences when they are traumatized and think they are facing death.  In that moment nothing matters except those you love.  In that moment all you really wanted was to be in the arms of your family.

In the end life boils down to some very basic things. We want to love and be loved. We want to be heard and we want our life to count for something. We are all brothers and sisters, striving for the same thing. Death is the great equalizer.  It sees past color, race, religion, past, status and age.  This was your truth.  Would it all have been worth it – had you died on that street holding hands with a stranger?

So it appears now that you have put your bravado mask back in place. Keeping your mouth shut to protect something, someone. Whatever the reason… in the dark, when no one is looking, remember my face. Remember that moment when you looked in my eyes. It was your truth.

Death doesn’t look cool or tough.  It just looks dead.

For eternity you will be known as “that poor kid”. Is that what you want?  Is this your legacy?

I want you to remember the moment you thought you were dying. Remember what that felt like.

Don’t ignore this last warning. Turn it around. Get help. Make a better choice. Others have gotten out and you can too. There is help for you.  All you have to do is ask for it.

This isn’t about loyalty anymore. It isn’t about proving anything. It is about living. Nothing more. Choosing to live.

If you do not make the right choice and soon, then you were right all along. You are dying.

It’s only a matter of time.

Last night I promised you wouldn’t die. I am now rescinding that promise.

This time …. if you want to live ….. it will be up to you. You know what you need to do.

DO IT

You are worth saving.  Choose to live.

Shara Nixon loves to hear and repeat the stories of people’s lives and cultural viewpoints. She enjoys deep conversations and people who hold strong viewpoints. In her day job she is a social worker for business owners, helping them meet their goals. As an insomniac, she writes at night to clear her head. She is punctuationally challenged and uses too many !!!. She also believes in creative spelling as an art form. Her super-power is in connecting like-minded people and communicating with an intent to learn instead of respond. She writes about relationships, business savvy, online dating, finance and general things that piss her off. Shara believes that key to peace is education and connection!!!

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Opinion

Experiencing Christmas as a Non Christian

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“Jingle Bell Vibes” can not be ignored in North America

If you live in North America it’s difficult to ignore Christmas- the mall decorations, Christmas carols, events, gift buying and many more. But being a person from a different culture, where Christmas is never celebrated, this festive season seems full of excitement and happiness. The tradition of decorating trees and homes, family gatherings and exchanging gifts looks very overwhelming. But what exactly is the meaning of Christmas rather than decorations and celebrations for a person with no Christmas background? So, the answer is love and happiness.

Everyone from western culture eagerly waits for Christmas and during this particular period people can be observed as more giving, cheerful, caring and kind. The Christmas vibes are full of joy even the thought of Christmas celebrations seems beautiful- the candles, the presents under trees, cozy fireplaces, the sparkly decorations, the home cooked food, the gathering of people, and the festive ambiance itself. Hence, nobody can stay away from all these jingle bell vibes.

Christmas is big- very big. This can be explained as huge craziness over Black Friday Sales that can be seen among people of every age- kids, teens, adults and seniors. Everybody in the family starts making lists and creating a budget. However, feeling of Christmas shopping seems full of excitement and stressful at the same time. The pressure of buying according to the budget saddens the joyous feeling to some extent but there’s a lot more stuff to do rather than just shopping.

For people who have never celebrated Christmas, Christmas seems like a festival of spending time with loved ones and exchanging presents in the spirit of giving. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, fundamentally. And for many people, Christmas is a ritualistic time to feel connected with others, which I think is valuable. That’s why other cultures have started celebrating Christmas. All this begins with traditional family dinner on Christmas ewe, baking cookies for Santa and of course eagerly waiting for Santa. And, finally opening the presents and thanking each other.

For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. Many are not able to afford gifts for their family and friends. But apart from money, there are cultural reasons as well for not being a part of Christmas celebrations. For instance, in Sikh culture, from December 21-28, these seven days are known as the days of sacrifice. These are the holiest days in Sikh history. They are full of unparalleled sacrifice.

The four Sahibzade (sons) of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of Sikhs, were martyred during these days before the age of 19. During this period, Sikh people celebrates nothing but sorrow. Thus, belonging to Sikh religion, Christmas holds no meaning. It seems nothing but just fascinating decorations. Moreover, roots being attached to Sikh religion and living in Western countries like Canada, it’s complicated to decide whether it’s a good idea to involve into Christmas spirit or not.

Yet, Christmas is a season of great joy and people should feel free to celebrate in their own way and do whatever makes them happy.

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Opinion

Being gay and brown and middle-aged!

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It is not easy being gay and brown and middle-aged! I still feel like an outsider, and relatively marginalized from the mainstream queer community. This is especially the case if I am at a party or club in Vancouver and there are groups of people socializing. The white gay men, who society seems to think is the cream of the crop of desirability, usually, hang out together.

I remember one of my friends asked me why are most of my friends’ people of colour? I said it’s because they’re the only ones who want to be friends with me and who like me. I have tried to hang out with people of all backgrounds, but the ones that stick around are usually those that I have something in common with and that includes our shared cultural upbringing, heritage, and skin colour.

I have experienced oppression in subtle ways. I met a cute Italian guy when I was 30 and doing my post-graduate in England. Let’s call him Frederico. He was from Rome. We ended up dating for a few months. Of course, I had to ask him out. It’s been rare in my life to be actually asked out by a good looking white guy.

He said to me “you’re quite handsome for an Indian guy.” I did not know if I should take this as a compliment? Nonetheless, I didn’t feel comfortable being the token person of colour in his social circle and soon we ended our relationship. At the end of the day, most people want to feel like they fit in.

I arrived at my student housing at the London School of Economics which is probably one of the most ethnically diverse schools in the world. To my surprise, the students made friends and even sat in the cafeteria based largely on nationality and ethnicity. The Latinos sat together, the Europeans sat together, and the Asians sat together.

As a gay male with family history from India and born in England and raised in Canada, I didn’t know who to sit with. Fortunately, I made some friends from Canada and the USA and with a few closeted gay students.

I even experienced explicit ageism in the gay world while in London. I went to a gay bar, as I turned 30 in the city, and an older white Englishman asked me about my age. When I told him, he stated “your past the expiry date.”

Now I am 47 years old. My life is getting better in some ways. I have a nice house and car, I have a successful business, and I have good friends and family. On the downside, I am not as toned, getting bald, with grey hair. I have joint pain. I can still swim for an hour virtually non-stop which I am proud of, nonetheless. I wonder sometimes, am I still desirable enough for the gay world? The gay world is still so obsessed with youth and beauty.

I grew up with media images of white, smooth, muscular young men and “twinks”, both of which I look nothing alike. I am currently focused on self-care and supporting and making a difference in the lives of others who are struggling especially queer youth.

In my counselling practice, I have helped many young brown men who have internalized racism and internalized homophobia. This means they do not like themselves for being brown or gay. Can you imagine? They have to come out and accept their ethnicity and sexuality. Talk about trying to deal with double the societal oppression and self-esteem and self-identity issues.

I am writing this article to let the next generation of queer youth, especially queer brown and queer people of colour, know that there is hope. You can love yourself. You can be loved. You can find your place in our queer family.

If you are youth between 16 and 30 demonstrating involvement, commitment and leadership in the queer community feel free to apply for the Sher Vancouver January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award which has cash prizes of $1000, $600, $400, and $200. For more information check out: shervancouver.com/youth-award.html

Alex Sangha is the Founder of Sher Vancouver and a Recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada. You can contact Alex at: alexsangha@gmail.com

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Opinion

A Community Perspective on the Christchurch Terror Attack

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As this very moment, the number of dead from the Christchurch terror attack remains unknown. Authorities say 49 dead, but a snuff video posted by the perpetrator gives an indication as to a much higher body count. The victims undoubtedly woke up with plans, dreams, and worries like the rest of us, not knowing that they would not live to see the evening.

This, in a country known for its majestic scenery. Carnage, in a country that could teach my country a thing or two about how to properly go about truth and reconciliation with our indigenous population. This, in a country, that in many ways resembles our own. The parallels between New Zealand and Canada are not imaginary. A Terror Expert on Christchurch’s channel 7 news said, in his own words, “New Zealand is kind of like Canada. Nothing like this ever happens in Canada.” Except he’s wrong, something like this did happen in Canada. Two years ago, one of our terrorists walked into a mosque in Quebec City, killing six and injuring nineteen. The parallels between our two nations, once thought to be flattering, now feel unnerving. Should I be worried about the next attack? Surrey, after all, is home to a sizeable Muslim community, with at least seven mosques that I can count off the top of my head. Should I now worry about taking my children with me to the mosque, out of fear that we may be the next international headline?

No. I refuse to live in fear. And here is why.

I have the privilege of working with children on a daily basis. When asked about the difficulties of adulthood, I confess to these pre-teens that the saddest part of becoming an adult is discovering that super-heroes are imaginary, and monsters are real. Except I no longer believe that to be true. For every genocidal Islamophobe, for every keyboard crusader, for every hijab-hating psychopath, for every monster, I have met dozens of heroes. I have worked with the Imams of Surrey’s mosques, some of whom are survivors of wars and destruction, who happily open their doors to their community. I have enjoyed the company of SFU’s Christian chaplain, who never missed an opportunity to make me and my co-faithful feel at home on campus. I have received emails from friends of no obvious faith background who, upon hearing about these all-too-frequent tragedies, remind me that I do not walk alone. I have had the privilege of working for employers who go above and beyond their legal responsibilities in providing me with a space to worship. I refuse to live in fear, because Surrey is my home, and it is my family, and it is filled with heroes.

I refuse to live in fear because this is my city. I am reminded of this fact when I am greeted by the smiling faces at the McDonald’s where I get my coffee in the morning. I am reminded of this at my Jujitsu gym, where there is no discrimination based on skin or belt colour. Despite what the monsters would have us believe, this is my city. This is our city. I own it. We own it. And no one can ever take it away from us.

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Community Board

OPINION: Reflections on Surrey’s 2018 Municipal Election

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By Cindy Dalglish

This campaign was eye-opening, enthralling, difficult, and fun. It was exhausting, disgusting, invigorating, and disappointing. Many times, over the past several months, I heard from people that they ‘aren’t into politics’, or ‘I don’t get political’. My, what a privileged stance. I know many that just didn’t bother to vote, too.

Not only did many die for the privilege, here is what you need to know.

Unless you are a hobbit living in the forest, completely off the grid and eating food you catch yourself, you are political. Have a bank account? Political. Eat food from a store or a restaurant? Political. Walk on sidewalks? Did you go to school? Kids in school? Drive a car? Take a bus? Go to a movie? Play a sport? Have your kids in sports? Are you older and needing medical care? Are you younger and broke a bone? Do I need to go on? POLITICAL. Every.single.thing we have in this world is gained through some form of politics.

I’m tired of the term “politics” getting a bad rap.

I’m tired of the title “politicians” getting such negative press.

And I’m also getting fed up with “taxes” being considered a bad thing.

Without politics, politicians, and taxes, you would not be able to afford to live. Period.

There would be exorbitant costs to going to school, your basic healthcare, your cars, your food. The system we have, like it or not, is better than the alternative. Fundamental rights would not be protected. There would be no judicial system (we can argue the effectiveness of ours later). No mental health (again, later). No police. No one to see us when we are sick, give us chemo for cancer, heck we wouldn’t even know we are dying of cancer. And no leaders. No one willing to put themselves on the line for everyone else that didn’t bother going to vote.

There are so many good people trying to make positive change for the greater good (agree with their ways or not), and 67.45% of Surrey stayed home when it was time to do the one thing they need to do while the rest of the candidates work their tails off trying to garner your vote. There is not a political vote that you should stay home for. Not one. There are advanced voting opportunities and election day. Heck, if you can’t make it to one of those, you can go to City hall and they will accept your vote in person.

But this isn’t just a Surrey issue. This is a Province-wide issue. Do we need to move to the Australian model of voter engagement where it is compulsory with fines for not? What is it going to take?

We take so much for granted. And it’s sad, really. Just sad.

We need our citizens, just as much as they need us.

VOTE. Signed, was a candidate and now back to being “just” a parent advocate.

Cindy Dalglish

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Community Board

Hey Surrey, it’s time to incorporate gun and gang violence into the education system

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By Marah Arif

Bang. All it took was one finger on the trigger and two teenage boys were gone forever.

What was left? Heartbroken parents who would never see their sons smiling again, living with constant reminder that their child was a victim to gun and gang related violence. This is a reality that families have been facing for the past ten years.

Although investigations are still ongoing it has been confirmed the shooting was targeted. Local authorities have set a verdict as an incident related to gun and gang violence. The family of the victim is urging parents whose children are involved in gangs to no longer hide and reveal the truth.

These families not only need justice, they also want to change the community we live in so that no child could ever be robbed of their future again.

Such changes can be made a reality by incorporating the dangers of gun and gang related violence into the education system.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assured citizens that gun and gang violence in Surrey is a priority for his government. With the upcoming election, mayoral candidate Surrey First Tom Gill, is promising an estimated cost of $1 million annually for free access to recreation facilities in the city. This course of action is part of a five-year $50 million Surrey First obligation to prevention and new policing with the purpose of quelling the issue of gang violence to protect children and teens.

Tom Gill declared a public safety plan for Surrey which includes free access to the pool, ice rink, and gym for 125,000 kids and teens under 18 in order to keep kids active and away from gangs.

Another candidate explored the solution of developing a new municipal police form to combat the pressing issue. Doug McCallum of the Safe Surrey Coalition proposed the replacement of the RCMP with the new police force.

The candidates communicate great differing solutions for the issue. This might lead one to reconsider the need to incorporate education about gun and gang violence into the school.

Although, providing access to recreation facilities gives children and teen’s fun and safe activities, it does not educate them on the problems at hand. In addition, not all children are going to access these facilities or have an interest in them.

The offer of a special force designed to fend off gang violence and protect children is not something the city would turn down unless they are informed of the lengthy time and high costs it would take.

Doug McCallum explained,

“The costs would also be considerable; he said Surrey could have to spend tens of millions of dollars just for the transition, which would involve capital costs, recruitment costs and legal costs.”

Although they are thoughtful ideas they do not get to the root of the issue.

In order for children and teens to stay away from guns and gang violence they must first understand the dangers behind it which can be best done at school. Although adding the topic into the school curriculum would be a cost, this is a long term plan that starts with children first by steering them onto the right path by developing their knowledge.

Public Safety Canada states that “in 2016, police reported 141 gang-related homicides, 45 more than in 2015. Since 2013, gang-related homicides in Canada’s largest cities have almost doubled.”

Despite Mayor Linda Hepner’s increase in RCMP officers, 5 of the 7 homicides in Surrey this year have all been a result of gun or gang violence.

The education on the topic can be implemented through planning classes in high school and with guest speakers who have experienced gang life to illustrate to students the hazardous lifestyle.

Allowing the topic to be presented in classrooms can reach not only at risk children and teens but all students would be educated on the issue.

Adding gun and gang related violence education could be incorporated in nationwide thus benefiting other provinces that also experience similar problems such as Ontario.

Education around gun and gang violence can discuss how media glamorize gangs and gang life and how off-screen gangsters sell this lifestyle as well. Teens would learn the repercussions of being in a gang, and how friends and families are affected by it.

The best way to ensure the bright future for these children is to educate them about the dangers of gun and gang violence. We need to put an end to the horrifying realities of a children and teens who have fallen victims to this tragedy. We, as a community, must advocate for school education on guns and gang violence.

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