Deepak Gill, Probation Officer at Surrey East Community Corrections, moved from Victoria to Surrey. She shares how a larger chunk of Surrey youth which is bright and sensitive is carrying the burden of few bad guys involved in gang violence
Born and raised in Victoria, BC, my experience as a youth was quite different than the youth in Surrey B.C. I did not have the need to defend the city in which I lived. Victoria did not receive the negative attention that caused me to feel embarrassed saying I was from there.
Now forward several years I arrived in Surrey to complete my post-secondary education and begin my work as a Probation Officer. The city of Surrey, which I chose to live and work in had a completely different image which unfortunately is a negative one that is perpetuated in how media portrays it. Like most people, I am not immune to the negative comments that often follow when I inform others that I reside in Surrey, however the effects that these comments have on our youth are much more damaging.
Today’s youth are inundated with pressures and rather than focus their energy towards education and other areas that have the ability to assist and help them to grow, our youth are facing issues of self-image, violence, bullying, cyber-bullying, discrimination and the need to belong; just to name a few. These stressors and facing the negativity of belonging to the city of Surrey add to the list of issues they face.
It is not surprising that many of us obtain our information form media which often times informs our perceptions, decisions and beliefs. Headlines that depict words such as youth, gangs and violence receive mass amounts of attention as the language used is carefully considered and executed to attract the attention of their audience. What the community fails to see is the larger population that is doing great things, working hard, and making a difference.
It is disheartening that majority of our youth go unnoticed but the small percentage who are unfortunately entangled in violent lifestyles often are the ones gaining the attention which further perpetuates the negative image of this city.
Hundreds of youth are going unnoticed in Surrey, the negative images that are portrayed give one story and there are always dangers to one story as they create stereotypes (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). This single story represents an entire city of a small number of individuals that are unfortunately entangled in a difficult lifestyle. The remainder of the youth that make up the majority are burdened by this negative portrayal which overshadows the powerful voice of Surrey youth.
Most recently I had the privilege to work alongside a talented and intelligent group of students from Princess Margaret Secondary School who participated in the DigitaLENS program. Through digital storytelling, these students showcased their skills, knowledge and insight into issues that affect our youth and city. These students made noise of issues that affect each one of us and used their voice to tell these stories. They unpacked issues that many wish to ignore.
I feel that we have a collective responsibility to provide our youth with space to have their voices heard and I encourage everyone to listen. The issues that our city deals with need attention through appropriate dialogue. I hope our youth who are portrayed in a negative light will eventually be seen and heard and feel empowered to continue the impressive ways in which they contribute to this city.