British Columbia

Families gather in Abbotsford to warn others of gang violence

Families of gang violence victims gathered to share their stories at a forum in Abbotsford, B.C., on Saturday, as the Fraser Valley grapples with an ongoing gang war.

Vancouver police officer Kal Dosanjh says there's been an uptick in gang violence in the Fraser Valley

A few dozen people gathered in Abbotsford, B.C., on Saturday to hear people share their stories about gang violence. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Families of gang violence victims gathered to share their stories at a forum in Abbotsford, B.C., on Saturday, as the Fraser Valley grapples with an ongoing gang war.

Jessica Sherman, whose cousin Harwin Baringh was killed in 2014, was one of the speakers at the event. Sherman, who refers to Baringh as her brother because they grew up so close together, told the crowd that no parent looks at their child thinking they will become part of a gang. 

"My brother was a really great kid," she told the dozens of people in the audience, holding back tears. "He chose the wrong company, and essentially that's what ended up taking his life."

Jessica Sherman held back tears as she told the crowd about her brother's death. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Baringh was 18 when he died. Sherman said one night he left home with a group of friends, one of whom was targeted in a gang attack. Baringh was caught in the crossfire.

"It just goes to show, the community needs a shift," Sherman said.

Sherman now volunteers for the anti-gang non-profit organization Kids Play, which aims to create positive community role models and offer children recreational activities. The organization put the event together.

'Ample opportunity for gangsters'

Kids Play founder and Vancouver police officer Kal Dosanjh says there's been an increase in gang violence in the Fraser Valley.

"Out here, there's ample opportunity for gangsters to get involved in this lifestyle and we're seeing that," Dosanjh said.

"There seems to be a bit of a vacuum in Chilliwack and Abbotsford with respect to drug empire-building, primarily on account of the fact of its proximity to the border.

By putting together forums like this one, Dosanjh hopes to educate families about the risks of gang life. 

The province recently announced $2.6 million for youth anti-gang programs across B.C., including two programs in Abbotsford.

 

Clarifications

  • In an earlier version of this story, Harwin Baringh was referred to as Jessica Sherman's brother. He was, in fact, her cousin, but Sherman says she refers to him as a brother because they grew up so close together.
    Aug 26, 2019 8:22 AM PT

With files from Jon Hernandez

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