All quiet on the gang front: October’s brutal murders seem to have had a chilling effect


Non-Resident Indians have to declare demonetised Indian notes at airport


Jawahar Padda case back in court on February 1


Transport Safety Board investigates after Pakistan International Airways plane clips wing of Air France jet at Toronto airport


Surrey-Green Timbers NDP MLA Sue Hammell to retire after current term ends


New US Army rule expands Sikh equal employment opportunity


Khalsa Credit Union donates $105,000 to the community







All quiet on the gang front: October’s brutal murders seem to have had a chilling effect




Staff-Sgt. Lindsey Houghton

Photo by Chandra Bodalia




IT’S been so quiet for the last couple of months on the gang front in B.C.

So I asked gang expert Staff-Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. whether this could be because of the shocking violence in October when Hells Angel Robert (Bob) Keith Green of Burnaby was murdered in Langley and then 10 days later, dismembered parts of the body of Shaun Alan Clary, who reportedly had gang associations, were found scattered in Langley.

Houghton replied: “There is no doubt that murders and certain violent events can and often do have a chilling effect on that group and the people who are involved in it.”

That is because whether they are directly associated or indirectly associated to people who are involved in those violent events, word gets around pretty quickly not just through the media, but also through their own network.

Houghton added: “And they all scurry into their dark, little corners and caves and shadows because they don’t want to be next, even though there may not be a threat against them – they don’t know that!

“That really speaks to this life of chaos and paranoia and complete uncertainty that these people live 24/7 365 days a year.”

Houghton also pointed out: “We’ve typically seen in past years a bit of a downturn, if you will, around the holiday season but then we’ve also seen an uptick in January, February and March. So we are hoping that these people involved in this type of activity choose not to follow some of the past trends and, of course, we are doing everything we can on our end to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

He also noted: “Whether it’s January 1 or December 31, from our perspective nothing really changes. Our foot at our unit is on the gas and we are continuing to move forward whether it is supporting our partner agencies – whether that’s police or others around the province – in their targeting and prevention and other efforts against gang activity, organized crime at every level.”

He added that this was especially now with intense focus on fentanyl and the opioid crisis.

(I will come back to the fentanyl crisis later).


SO have there been any major changes in gang alignments?

Houghton said the alignments are still the same, adding: “We’ve still got these two somewhat distinct and separate sides. Every once in a while there are some shifting allegiances on minor scales – individuals or small cells or groups. But there is nothing major that’s going on. It’s been fairly consistent, at least over the last year.”

The only change seems to be the diminishing influence of the Dhaks and Sandip Duhre associates.

Houghton explained: “As we get another year removed from the Dhaks and Sandip Duhre, we always get questioned about why we are still using their names. I think it’s fair to say – and how I qualify it is it’s the legacy of those groups – but I think if we want to start to remove ourselves from using their names, it’s more the United Nations … The Dhak associates and the Duhres associates are still scattered around, but the dominant side of that is now the United Nations and the United Nations-aligned people. They still exist. They are still around.”

The other side is the Wolf Pack that consists of certain Hells Angels like Larry Amero and their allies and associates, the Independent Soldiers and the people that they brought to the equation and the Red Scorpions.

Houghton noted: “We’ve seen and heard the name Wolf Pack over the last year. We’ve heard their name come up in places like Kamloops and Surrey. So they are still very active and groups like the Red Scorpions and Independent Soldiers – these groups are still active and prominent in that world.”


MEANWHILE, the fentaynl crisis in B.C. is the intense focus of the police forces.

Houghton said the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. is supporting all its partner agencies as they look to target the street-level drug dealing, which some people have classified as gang activity, others as low-level gang activity and still others have hesitated to connect it to gangs.

But he thinks that we are at a point now where we need to get past what labels may or may not apply and recognize that there is a continuum of connection.

Houghton said: “We’ve seen the number of deaths and tragedies related to fentaynl in particular reach an epidemic level.” So the CFSEU-BC, like all its policing partners, is determined to do everything that it can to get these very dangerous drugs off the streets and hold the drug dealers accountable.

When I pointed out to Houghton that many wonder if the drug dealers would like to see their clients die like this because they are making money off them, he responded: “They don’t care … because they know there are other customers. … They have no consideration or regard for human life because they don’t see that as affecting them. They see the people that they are preying on as replaceable commodities … and there is little to no humanity associated to this on their part.”

He added: “And it’s really sad because we hear the stories it seems every day now of young people who have died and we are hearing from their parents or husbands or wives or siblings or … whoever it is. This isn’t an epidemic that is only affecting hardcore street level drug users. This is affecting everyone in every community of every socio-economic status. There are no boundaries.”

Houghton said that recently he had been reflecting on this and thinking about what we could do better and he compared it to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and how at first it seemed like it was a crisis affecting only a certain community.

He added: “And then it grew and grew and grew and the community mobilized and look where we are today in our fight against AIDS and HIV! We are so far ahead and I think and I like to hope that that is also possible if we were all to come together [to deal with the fentanyl crisis].”





Non-Resident Indians have to declare demonetised Indian notes at airport


Bengaluru (IANS): NRIs coming for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here from Saturday and resident Indians returning from abroad need to declare at the airport on arrival the number of demonetised Rs 500 and 1,000 notes they are carrying, said a Customs official on Friday.

“The government has given six-month grace period from January 1 to June 30 to NRIs and three months (up to March 31) to resident Indians for submitting in a prescribed form the demonetised notes in their possession,” Customs Joint Commissioner Harsh Vardhan said in a statement here.

Though the high-value currency has ceased to be a legal tender from November 9, the government had allowed all citizens to deposit them in banks or exchange them for new notes for 50 days till December 30.

“NRIs coming to India and Indians returning from abroad have, however, been given an opportunity to surrender the banned notes if they did not deposit them till earlier,” said the official.

As the Ordinance on demonetisation was issued on December 30 with penalties on those holding these notes, the holders have to declare holding, transferring or receiving them to avoid penalty after three or six months, as is the case.

“NRIs and resident Indians can bring back the banned notes up to Rs 25,000 each as per the Foreign Exchange Management (Export and Import of currency) Regulations,” said the statement.

The declaration at the airport will enable the holders to deposit the banned notes at designated RBI offices with the Customs-stamped form to exchange or remit an equivalent amount in their respective bank accounts.

The Customs office has made special arrangements at the airport with additional staff to enable the Indian diaspora comply with the regulation.





Jawahar Padda
Photo: Facebook

Jawahar Padda case back in court on February 1


THE case involving Jawahar Padda of Gateway Pizza in Newton will now be back in court on February 1 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 104 at Surrey Provincial Court when a date for trial is likely to be decided.

Padda’s lawyer was in court on Wednesday.
Padda is charged with pointing a firearm, uttering threats, unlawful confinement, and assault in connection with an incident on November 1.
At the time, Cpl. Scotty Schumann told The VOICE that there was an argument at the place “between two people that were known to each other.” As a result of that four charges were laid.





Transport Safety Board investigates after Pakistan International Airways plane clips wing of Air France jet at Toronto airport



THE Transportation Safety Board is investigating a Tuesday night incident at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in which a Pakistan International Airways plane clipped the wing of an Air France jet as it taxied toward a gate.

Greater Toronto Airports Authority spokesperson Natalie Moncur told CBC that Air France flight AF351 was parked at a Terminal 3 gate when the incident took place around 6 p.m.

There were no injuries and a passenger on the PIA flight PK789 said that he didn’t feel any kind of impact.

However, the incident led to frustrating delays for passengers. One passenger on the PIA flight said that it took about 45 minutes after the landing for the crew to make it to the gate and open the jetway.

Then passengers had to wait six hours for their bags to be unloaded.

The incident led to PIA flight PK790 to Lahore to be delayed until Wednesday afternoon and Air France flight AF351, bound for Paris, was also cancelled, CBC reported.





Surrey-Green Timbers NDP MLA Sue Hammell to retire after current term ends



LONG-TIME Surrey MLA Sue Hammell will retire when her fifth term serving the constituents of Surrey-Green Timbers ends this spring.
“It’s been an incredible privilege to serve the constituents of Surrey-Green Timbers over the last 20 years. I am excited and energized heading into the new year, and was looking forward to joining BC’s next premier, John Horgan, in government, however my husband’s recent serious illness means I must devote more time to my family,” Hammell said.
First elected in 1991, during her time in government Hammell served in a number of cabinet positions, including Minister of Housing, Recreation and Consumer Services, Minister Responsible for Co-Operatives and Minister of Women’s Equality. She was re-elected in 1996, 2005, 2009 and 2013, most recently serving as the Official Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Substance Use.
“Tireless in her advocacy for women’s rights and BC’s families, Sue has served this province for over 20 years,” said NDP Leader Horgan. “It has been an absolute pleasure to have her on our team. While I wish she was by my side as we elect a New Democrat government this coming May, family always comes first.”
Hammell said she is committed to helping elect a New Democrat government in the 2017 provincial election and will fully support the next NDP candidate for Surrey-Green Timbers.




South Asians have tremendous respect for Hammell and former MLA Penny Priddy who stood by the community in the 1990s when it was not such a popular thing to do. They won the community’s admiration when during the 1993 Remembrance Day, they fully supported Lt.-Col. (retired) Pritam Jauhal and other Sikh veterans who were asked to remove their turbans before entering the Newton Legion hall after the usual ceremony. The Sikh veterans, of course, refused to do so. Hammell and Priddy also refused to enter the Legion hall in protest against the blatant racism.

Hammell will be really missed by the community.

Harry Bains, MLA for Surrey-Newton, was all praise for Hammell and pointed out to me that she won her riding in 2009 with the second biggest margin of support in the whole province – after Colin Hansen (Vancouver-Quilchena).

(Official stats show she garnered 10,965 votes as compared to her Liberal rival’s 3,624.)

Bains noted that even in the last election, when the NDP didn’t do well, she won by a huge margin.

(Official stats show she got 58 per cent of the total vote as compared to her Liberal rival’s 34.5 per cent.)

When asked about the NDP’s prospects in the riding now, Bains said: “I think it`s a winning riding for us. We shouldn’t be taking it for granted and I am hoping that someone with a real good solid background in human rights, in labour, in workers activism [becomes the NDP candidate].  I am sure there will be a lot of interest.”



New US Army rule expands Sikh equal employment opportunity



THE U.S. Army on Wednesday issued updated rules governing religious liberty that significantly improve the standards for Sikhs and other religious minorities who seek to serve their country with their religious articles of faith intact. Over eight years after the Sikh Coalition began a campaign to end the U.S. military’s presumptive ban on the service of observant Sikhs, the Army’s new rules represent a historic step forward for Sikhs and other religious minorities seeking to serve in the U.S. military, says the Sikh Coalition.

The new rules, which were signed by the Secretary of the Army, eliminate bureaucratic hurdles that previously discriminated against Sikhs. Accommodation requests can now be approved at the brigade-level instead of going all the way to the Secretary of the Army. Once an approval occurs under the new rules, the religious accommodation is enduring and applies to most positions within the U.S. Army. The new Army policy does not apply to the other branches of the U.S. military.

“While we still seek a permanent policy change that enables all religious minorities to freely serve without exception in the Army and other branches of the military,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur, “we are pleased that the nation’s largest employer has significantly expanded equal employment opportunity for all Americans.”

Brigade commanders must grant religious accommodations for unshorn beards, unshorn hair, turbans and Muslim hijabs unless the requestor’s religious belief is not sincere or the Army identifies a specific, concrete hazard. Accommodations must be granted across all duty positions except in certain limited circumstances. The Army intends to conduct additional testing for the use of protective equipment by bearded soldiers.

“This is major progress, not just for the Sikh American community but for our nation’s military,” said Congressman Joe Crowley of New York. “Sikh Americans love this country and want a fair chance to serve in our country on equal footing. I’m so proud to have worked for this alongside the Sikh Coalition.”

Since 2009, the Sikh Coalition and pro bono counsel, Amandeep Sidhu, with his team from the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery, have led relentless advocacy efforts to end religious discrimination by the nation’s largest employer. This work has resulted in endorsements from over 100 bipartisan members of Congress, 27 retired military officials, and numerous civil rights organizations. In 2014, the Sik Coalition also added Becket Law to their legal team and partnered with them in two successful lawsuits against the Department of Defense on behalf of four Army clients in 2016. In the lead up to the Army’s issuance of new rules, the Sikh Coalition obtained religious accommodations for several additional clients, increasing the total number of observant Sikh soldiers and officers to at least nine individuals.

“My turban and beard represent my commitment to pluralism and equality,” said Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi. “This new policy change underscores the military’s commitment to these values and is a sign of meaningful progress that will ensure the strength of our democracy.” Kalsi, whose leadership has also been instrumental in these efforts, was the first Sikh American in more than a generation to be allowed to serve in the U.S. military without violating his articles of faith when he was granted an accommodation in 2009.



Khalsa Credit Union donates $105,000 to the community


IN keeping with its mission and commitment to care about the good and welfare of the community and support education, culture and religious activities, Khalsa Credit Union (KCU) returns 10% of its net income to various causes each year. For 2016, the total contribution is $200,000.

The cold weather being experienced in the Lower Mainland has resulted in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee of KCU deciding to provide funding for the homeless and less fortunate as follows:

* $14,500 to three shelters, Abbotsford Community Services and Surrey Memorial Hospital in the Lower Mainland for grocery hampers, blankets, bedding, pants, shirts, Jackets, and socks.

* $90,000 to Sikh schools in support of Sikh education in line with KCU’s mission statement.

“During 2016 KCU celebrated its 30th anniversary with a variety of initiatives including scholarships, bursaries, sponsorships, and Community Service Awards,” said Board Chair Harinder Singh Sohi. “At a time when individual giving is down we are pleased to step up our donations on a corporate level and give back to the many communities we serve”.

Chief Executive Officer Dalbir Singh Mehta added, “The management and employees of KCU regularly volunteer their time to help others and we are very grateful to work for an organization that embodies the spirit of people helping people”.

KCU is a full-service credit union with assets exceeding $412 million, nearly 15,000 members and five branches located in Vancouver, Victoria, Surrey (two) and Abbotsford with a sixth branch scheduled to open at 128th Street and 80th Avenue in Surrey in early 2017.

KCU is also very active in providing commercial mortgages and has a centralized department that specializes in taking excellent care of the business borrowing needs of members. KCU thanked its members and its communities for their continued support and wished everyone a Happy New Year.