RETIRED Sgt. Shinder Kirk of Abbotsford Police, who had a high profile during the Lower Mainland gang warfare in the 2000s when he acted as a spokesperson for Abbotsford Police, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. and the Integrated Gang Task Force, died Saturday in a head-on collision in Nanaimo.
One person died and two people were airlifted to hospital after the accident that took place just before 2 p.m. on Cedar Road near the Cedar Bridge.
Nanaimo RCMP said two pickup trucks collided head on. In one vehicle, the driver was killed and two passengers were injured. No one in the second vehicle was transported to hospital.
KIRK was a very good source for me and we went out of the way to try and discourage young South Asians from joining gangs and expose those who were scumbags. Over the years, he gave quite a few interviews to this newspaper.
Kirk, who was a former Vancouver police officer and held a commercial pilot licence, could be seen on TV all the time in the 2000s as he fielded questions from the media – arguably the best known Indo-Canadian cop face in B.C. at the time.
Kirk, who was born in Dhanda, Jalandhar district, Punjab in India, came to Canada in 1962 along with his mom and sister at the age of three. His dad had been here since 1947-48. The only home he has really known is the Lower Mainland and perhaps no one else was in a better position than him to advise Indo-Canadian parents and kids.
His family settled in east Vancouver initially where most Apnes (Indo-Canadians) resided then. They moved to Richmond in 1969. He had his schooling at Richmond senior secondary.
Kirk was the genuine kind of guy who quite apparently always wanted to follow his heart. He quit Vancouver Community College after just one semester because he felt that wasn’t for him and pursued and earned his commercial pilot licence.
But there was a downturn in the industry back in 1978-79 and he wanted a stable job. A close family friend, Paul Sanghera, a Vancouver police officer who died on duty in 1982, dared him to join the police – and he did.
Kirk got to familiarize himself with the Indo-Canadian community even more as he worked as a cop in the Fraser-Marine Drive-Ross Street area in 1982-83 before moving to traffic and later to north-east Vancouver.
But in 1990, he decided to move to the Valley because he and his family craved a country lifestyle. So he joined the Matsqui police force, which later became Abbotsford Police.
Kirk said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the country lifestyle. My dad had owned a farm many, many years ago in Richmond and I thoroughly enjoyed that lifestyle in the country, the open spaces. So my wife and I at that time decided what better place to raise our family than in the Valley and we decided on Matsqui and we found it a great place to live.”
Kirk lived with his wife Wendy and daughter Stephanie.
In Abbotsford police, he held a variety of positions, working as a dog handler and then switching to traffic.
In 2000, he got the opportunity to work as the media liaison officer, a really challenging job. He had been the backup for the previous media guy in 1999.
One day the police chief asked Kirk if he’d like the media liaison job and he said ‘yes,’ “not knowing how much work would be involved.” He had thought he was looking at the job two years down the road – but it came to him within a month
Kirk said: “Then the chief asked me if I would be interested in taking the position, thinking it might be two years down the road. But within a month, I was in the position.’
Here are some parts from an interview with Kirk from a July 2003 article titled: “Role Model: Abbotsford Police Constable Shinder Kirk – Dialogue and community involvement a must to save youth”:
VOICE: Can you tell our readers about your experience dealing with Indo-Canadians as a police officer? Any changes you’ve seen in the community over the years?
Kirk: Certainly there has been an evolution within the Indo-Canadian community since I began. I was probably the fourth or fifth Indo-Canadian hired by Vancouver. So it was very novel for our community to see an Indo-Canadian officer, especially someone who could speak the language (Punjabi) – certainly there were one or two others some place in the Lower Mainland that were actually born here and spoke very, very little Punjabi. But I was raised in a Punjabi household, so that was my first language.
Those were difficult times – our community really didn’t understand at that point that the police here were much different than they were used to back in India. Here they were much more professional. They were required, in fact, it was paramount that they abided by the law – the laws were meant not only for the citizens but also for police officers.
So there was a little bit of animosity, there was a little bit of mistrust. In fact, there was a little bit of surprise that very often in some of the situations that I dealt with that they would find an Indo-Canadian officer who actually spoke relatively good Punjabi. And there was a lot of anger too in some situations. I remember that I dealt with numerous young men and older men that didn’t realize that I spoke the language. And when they would start speaking, they were prone to violence. They were going to assault a partner or they were going to do something to waylay an investigation. But when they found out that he understood their language, well that anger was then transferred on me.
I mean there was a lot of animosity, almost to the point where you were fearful for your own personal safety sometimes when you were going home.
But that’s totally changed. Our community has now become a very intelligent community, a very vibrant community. We are actually a part of the fabric of British Columbia and correctly or incorrectly – people will dispute this – we built this province. Immigrants, Indo-Canadians specifically, Asians specifically, have built this province into what it is. Taking all those labours out, perhaps we might not be such a vibrant society as we are now in B.C.
So having experienced those things in Vancouver in the early part of my career, we now see much more acceptance of Indo-Canadian officers, a much more reliance on their skills to speak the language, to understand their culture and certainly some aspects (such as) bridging those cultures – Western society and Indian society – and bringing on a little more understanding between the two – and therein lies a difficulty that we are facing now with our community.
We are at a crossroads. We are a very proud people. We are a very strong people. And our traditions mean everything to us. And I recognize that. But now we are living in a Western society where things tend to be just a little more liberal – there are certain expectations of you, of your children, of your families and sometimes they clash with our culture, the culture that we were raised up in, our forefathers were raised up in – and we are seeing some of that now in the violence in some of the issues with youth and we need to recognize that and learn to deal with that. Or we must deal with it or else we are going to have some very serious trouble –much more so now.
In essence, what I believe our young people don’t have now is an identity. They don’t know – and certainly I faced this when I was growing up – what was I? Was I Indian? Was I Canadian? Or was I a Canadian of India descent – someone who was born and raised in India that is now for all intents and purposes a Canadian?
So who are we? Certainly there were expectations. When we went home, that we were Indian – we spoke Punjabi, we ate Indian food, we adhered to our Indian heritage in the sense that we worked hard, and we abided by what our parents had to say.
But as soon as we left our house, we became Canadians. So there was a little bit of backlash and certainly you can see some of those issues cropping up now. Unfortunately, it’s gone to the extreme where we’re doing harm to one another and that’s something we need to address.
VOICE: What problems are there in Abbotsford?
Kirk: Well, Abbotsford is a unique community, not only in the sense of the Indian community, but also in the sense of the community at large. We still have our rural roots, our sort of country roots. We still care for one another in Abbotsford in just the outpouring of the emotions. And the feelings that I have certainly come across from everyone has been phenomenal in regards to all sorts of issues within Abbotsford.
Specifically in regards to the Indo-Canadian community, what we have, we have a population that is growing. By and large, we have very industrious people, people that not only own and manage farms, but they own and manage transportation companies, construction companies, manufacturing companies – they’re just tremendous. I mean they are adding to the economy like you wouldn’t believe.
But we also have a sort of a sinister undercurrent. Some of the issues that the community in Abbotsford is facing are alcoholism and domestic violence. Even though we have not been touched by a great number of youth issues, it does have the potential of reaching out to Abbotsford…some of the issues that the Lower Mainland is facing. Certainly we have had our episodes of violence involving Indo-Canadian youth and I can’t tell you whether it’s increasing or not because we don’t separate by race when we deal with an issue. We deal with the issue itself. Certainly we have seen a number of assaults and shootings and even homicide – we currently investigating a homicide involving a young Indo-Canadian. And we are going to be hard pressed to deal with this.
But again, if we start a dialogue, perhaps, we can save the youth from getting involved in it. And that’s the key here – it’s prevention and intervention when needed.
Dialogue in individual families, dialogue amongst the community as a whole. Internally, within your family, externally, with your neighbours and friends. We need to get involved in the community, doesn’t matter what race or cultural heritage or background you are from, you have to get involved in your community – and certainly I urge our Indian people to get involved in community events, show them that you are there, show then that you care about the community regardless of what your background might be. And they have – we just need to get some more of it.
We are going to face some difficulties with our young men and women getting involved in criminal activity and we are going to be hard pressed to deal with that issue unless we start now and start at every level and have positive role models from the community demonstrating what it is to be a good citizen – a good citizen of Canada, not an Indian who’s living in Canada.
Parents of young teens now need to realize that they have to discuss these issues with their kids – not force their will on their children, because you get the backlash.
IN September 2010, I interviewed Kirk again. A lot in the gang scene has changed since then, and I found these two questions and answers interesting as it shows how the gangs and the anti-gang forces were evolving in B.C.
VOICE: How much has the gang scene changed since 2005 when you first became spokesperson for the Integrated Gang Task Force (now part of the CFSEU)?
KIRK: It’s changed significantly in the sense these groups that we are dealing with are very fluid in composition. Alliances are formed and broken just as easily as the violence erupts. As these groups evolve, so do we as law enforcement. We must keep pace with their evolution and that’s what the status now is that there’s a constant evolution within the gang and organized crime world. What we do know is that no community is immune regardless of where you may be in the province. If there’s an opportunity for any of these groups or their associates – it doesn’t always have to be a member of a group; it can be an associate or an affiliate – for a dollar to be made, they’ll go to any community.
VOICE: What is the structure of the Integrated Gang Task Force now?
KIRK: We’ve undergone an evolution. As I said, we must evolve as quickly as these groups evolve. There are roughly 100 officers and what has undergone evolution within the policing world, especially those engaged in dealing with organized crime and gangs, is that there is a parent organization known as the CFSEU – Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit. There was an amalgamation late last year and early this year of all those units that are dealing with organized crime or gangs under one umbrella agency and that is CFSEU. So under CFSEU we have specialized units dealing with organized crime. Under the CFSEU family falls the Gang Task Force, but again, part of the evolution has been under the Gang Task Force. Now we have the uniformed gang investigators, that is, the Uniformed Gang Task Force, the old Violence Suppression Team and also a Firearms Enforcement Team – it’s a team of officers that specialize in nothing but enforcing firearms-related issues. These are all combined forces which means they have [members of] Vancouver Police as well as other municipal agencies as well as the RCMP combined working together.
Now the interesting thing about the CFSEU is that just recently this year [we formed] three satellite offices: one in Prince George, one in Kelowna and one in Victoria. Again, we know those areas can have the potential for either street-level gang issues or organized crime; hence, we have created those offices as well to deal with issues in a regional sense from wherever they’re based.
But now what’s interesting about the CFSEU is there are offices all across the country that are known as CFSEU. So we are linked not only locally for sharing resources and intelligence, but we are linked provincially and inter-provincially.