‘It’s pride getting in the way’: Feuding Indo-Canadian youth factions worry Abbotsford cops (w/ video)

Published: August 20, 2014

JENNIFER SALTMAN 
VANCOUVER DESI 

No one really knows how the conflict started.

According to a number of people who are involved, in February one person from one group disrespected someone from another group at a bar or at some kind of gathering.

From there, it escalated into a months-long battle involving two large groups of predominantly young South Asian men, which has police worried for the safety of those involved and the public.

Const. Ian MacDonald says: ‘You don’t want to see anybody carted away in an ambulance over this, and that is a very real possibility. Ric Ernst/PNG

“It’s pride getting in the way,” said Const. Ian MacDonald of the Abbotsford Police Department.

“This isn’t something that’s driven by difference in neighbourhood, it’s not difference in class, it’s not difference in ethnicity, it’s not difference in economics, it’s … respect and pride.

“Someone did something to somebody, and instead of one party getting over it, it started to set off this chain of events.”

Every week, police respond to two or three incidents related to the dispute. In May, there was a spike during which the police department averaged five or six calls per week. There was a period of calm in July, but things picked up again at the beginning of this month.

The incidents run the gamut: eggs thrown, stacks of unwanted pizzas ordered and delivered, vehicles driven on to lawns and into homes, rocks lobbed through windows, car fires, road rage incidents and what police are describing as “rumbles” in parks and residential areas involving 15 to 20 young men armed with bats, clubs and bear spray.

In one notable incident, a group of young men in an SUV drove on to the sidewalk at two pedestrians. A witness called police.

Another time, a woman in her 50s had her Maserati vandalized with a sledgehammer, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Her daughter, whose boyfriend was peripherally involved in the dispute, had borrowed the car.

Assault charges have been recommended against two young men.

“Even with the few members of both sides of the conflict you can have a rational conversation with, they can’t pinpoint where this started, but they can clearly pinpoint the last incident,” MacDonald said.

“If they can pinpoint the last incident then it can, for them, give them reason for the next retribution or retaliation.”

So far no one has been seriously hurt — some people sustained minor injuries during altercations — but MacDonald said police are concerned things will escalate.

“You don’t want to see anybody carted away in an ambulance over this, and that is a very real possibility,” he said.

Police have tried to be proactive. In July, they told the public what was happening and the number of incidents dropped significantly for a few weeks. This month, more calls began coming in.

Patrol officers have been conducting vehicle stops, speaking to people on the streets and in parks, and pleading with families to step in. Prominent members of the South Asian community have also been asked to help.

Two cameras have been installed in neighbourhoods where the majority of the incidents have been taken place and where people from the two groups live.

“At this point anything that’s going to restore any degree of calm or restore some degree of public safety, we’re going to use it,” MacDonald said.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman was unavailable to comment on the situation Tuesday.

MacDonald said that since the cameras went in last week, there has been relative calm, which police hope will last.

“The unfortunate part is there will come a time that the people involved in this will look back and see how silly this is,” MacDonald said. “We just hope it’s sooner rather than later.”

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