Violence among seniors exposed by two murders: government funding of programs is a must



Victim Narinder Kalsi
Victim Narinder Kalsi

THE South Asian community has been shaken up by two domestic-related murders involving seniors in the past five months as these are quite apparently only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Even nationally renowned registered social worker Shashi Assanand, who told The VOICE last July after the murder of 67-year-old Narinder Kaur Kalsi that “domestic violence is so pervasive that I think that it’s not going to go away,” said this week that she was “amazed” when she heard of last month’s murder of 64-year-old Jaswant Pandher.

The husband of each victim faces a second-degree murder charge.

When I asked Assanand, who has worked in the immigrant settlement sector as well as the anti-violence sector for over 35 years, if there was any special program to elderly women because they are more likely not to know English and more likely to be conservative, she replied: “I have been advocating a lot for that and we have actually applied for funding so that we can reach out to the older immigrant women and have them come together in a group so that they can deal with their isolation.”

Victim Jaswant Pandher
Victim Jaswant Pandher

Assanand, Executive Director of the Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services Society (VLMFSS), told The VOICE last July after Kalsi’s murder: “The unfortunate part is that everybody – government included – very quickly starts thinking maybe things are better [when they don’t hear of such cases for some time], so maybe there isn’t any need to put in more resources in this area.  So I think … everybody has to keep talking about it, otherwise people will think everything’s fine and then suddenly we’ll see like what happened [with Narinder Kalsi].”

Accused Baldev Kalsi
Accused Baldev Kalsi

Kalsi of Surrey was put on life support following what police said was a domestic-related attack on her on July 23. She was taken off life support on July 20. Her husband, Baldev Singh Kalsi, 66, who was president of Surrey’s Brookside Sikh Temple, was charged with second-degree murder.

Pandher, also of Surrey, was found dead in her house on November 23 in what police said appeared to be a domestic-related murder. Her husband, Harbans Pandher, 67, was charged with second-degree murder.


WHY at this age?

That is the question that has been on everyone’s mind.

Assanand bluntly noted that irrespective of the culture or age, “our men somehow or the other have never really learned to control their anger and they haven’t stopped thinking that a wife is something they own – a “thing” they own and not even a human being. So every time anything happens, they get angry and it goes to this extent, which is really surprising. I was also very surprised – two cases in our community about our seniors.”

But she added that she thinks that “the abuse has been going on between the couples for the longest possible time.”

For matters to escalate to the point that the man kills his wife, it “means that their relationship of abuse was never really resolved.”

She also noted: “In cases where the abuse has been extensive throughout their life, this can definitely happen.”


Shashi Assanand  Photo by Chandra Bodalia
Shashi Assanand
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

ASSANAND also spoke of the huge problem of seniors’ abuse. She said: “In Canada, more and more so, we are now very seriously talking about senior abuse and there is an advocate for seniors who has been appointed in the province [by the government]. So it will be an office where seniors can go and complain.”

But besides that, organizations like hers support immigrant women when they are in an abusive situation irrespective of age.

When parents come to Canada, chances are that the man will go out to meet friends and so on, while his wife will stay at home and do all the work such as cooking, cleaning and looking after the kids. So her depression increases. On the other hand, the man doesn’t feel very much in authority as compared to what he would have felt in India where elderly parents are well respected, Assanand explained.

She said she had seen so many seniors who have felt extremely depressed. Very often they don’t even know where to go. Things are very difficult for them.

Assanand said she was very well aware of senior abuse that takes various forms. There is, for example, financial abuse when they receive a pension check and it’s taken away by the children. Seniors may not get medication or taken to a doctor if they are not feeling very well. Money could be borrowed from them and never returned.

She added: “Physical abuse by children is not all that prevalent because our community feels very strongly that children should not be doing something like that, but if emotionally abused, these seniors have nowhere to go.”



‘Lack of adequate government funding contributing to ongoing domestic violence’ (July 25):



Violence against B.C. women spiked in 2014


DESPITE Premier Christy Clark promising a “violence free B.C.” in her February throne speech, deadly domestic violence against women and children spiked in B.C. in 2014, said the NDP on Thursday.

“Premier Clark has failed to commit the resources to make women safer,” said New Democrat women’s issues spokesperson Maurine Karagianis.

“She promised a ‘violence free B.C.’ without putting the resources in to make it a reality. Her government provided no extra resources for the domestic violence plan and actually cut the budget this year for victim services and crime prevention.

“The deadly reality is that 2014 has seen the highest rates of domestic violence in seven years.”

There were 20 deaths due to domestic violence in B.C. this year, including 18 women, one man and one child. Another 11 women were seriously injured.

“The number of women’s deaths is triple that of last year, and statistics only show the violence we know about,” said Karagianis. “None of the women who were killed this year reported violence in their homes.

“Many women are afraid to report violence. They aren’t just afraid of their abusers – they are afraid people won’t believe them, and they’re afraid they will have nowhere to live and no way to take care of their children.”

Karagianis noted that many small B.C. communities have no transition houses or other similar services, and social assistance rates are too low to provide safe housing and adequate food in most of British Columbia.

“It’s not enough to proclaim that you support good things. Women’s organizations tell me we need the housing, social assistance rates and crisis services to make a difference,” said Karagianis.

The Official Opposition will recognize the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Saturday, December 6.

MLAs will be attending remembrance events in their local communities. John Horgan and Sue Hammell will attend the End Violence Against Women 4th Annual Candle-light Vigil at Holland Park on December 6 at 4:30 p.m.