GARY THANDI COLUMN: The language of the bureaucrat: “Don’t call us, and we won’t call you”




IN Surrey and Abbotsford, we have a large South Asian population that continues to grow exponentially. While I think social and emotional services are important for all communities, there is a great need in these cities to help our South Asian community, which our social services leaders have for the most part failed to help. By ‘social service’ leaders, I speak primarily about directors and managers of major service providers – not necessarily city officials, MLAs or MPs who are often not involved in the day-to-day management of programs.

I decided to address the specific needs of South Asian communities, as I see it, by writing to many of these directors / managers. What I often received was spin – that is when I even received a reply – and would like to share some of those replies in this article.

I asked Fraser Health Addictions leadership about changing their service delivery to South Asians, a suggestion that wouldn’t cost anything but could better meet the needs of the community. I received a letter that stated, “We will be meeting with our contracted services within the next several months and will consider your comments and suggestions.” I knew the intent of the letter was basically to slough me off – to basically say “we will look into it,” (though I am not confident they ever did) and, in a nutshell, “don’t call us, and we won’t call you.”

That was last September so I decided to email them to ask how those supposed meetings went and if anything would change as it relates to addictions and mental health services for South Asian communities. The response from the same individual was: “I am unable to respond to your request to disclose any contractual review conclusions due to the confidential contractual relationship we maintain with all of our contracted service providers.  I appreciate you taking the time to express your concerns and they have been noted and taken into account.” That was once again an example of “don’t call us, and we won’t call you.”

The school district has a program for vulnerable youth that chooses to keep wait lists and not collaborate for reasons only their leadership knows. I finally managed to speak to a member of the school district leadership after about 18 months of trying to bring up my concerns – and the only reason I seemed to get a reply is because my last email to him also included our local MLAs, city officials and MPs. I haven’t heard anything after that meeting a few months ago. Another case of “don’t call us, and we won’t call you” perhaps?

I also wrote to BC Community Corrections about their considering delivering some of their programs for offenders in languages other than English, and having staff who speak those languages deliver such programs – again a proposal requiring no additional funding. I got a rather detailed reply about what BC Corrections does, though none of it really addressed my proposal. It ended with: “Thank you for bringing your concerns and suggestions to our attention.” I never heard back after that, despite my requests, and thus it appears to be another example of “don’t call us, and we won’t call you.”

Maybe the community itself needs to start asking why its needs aren’t being met? Maybe then the bureaucrats will truly do something that benefits the community, rather than hurt it.  In the meantime, I suppose I can write another letter …


Gary Thandi, MSW RSW, Doctor of Education candidate, is a Special Columnist with The VOICE. He writes about emotional wellness and social justice issues as they relate to South Asian communities. He is also head of Moving Forward Family Services that provides counselling and support services to anyone who wants it – without any waits. No one, regardless of their financial circumstances, will be turned away. Services are offered in English, Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Cantonese, Farsi, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian and Vietnamese. To access services, call or text 778-321-3054 or email him at: