2013 NEWS ROUNDUP: JANUARY TO JUNE – JUNE

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AIR INDIA: SIX FULLTIME RCMP INVESTIGATORS

Asian Journal in an exclusive story reported that RCMP are still doggedly pursuing the guilty in the Air India Flight 182 bombing, although fulltime investigators have been cut back by 75 per cent.

In March 2011, retiring RCMP deputy commissioner Gary Bass, who headed the Air India Task Force from 1995 to 2000, told the media that 22 to 26 officers were still working fulltime on the Air India case.

This month, BC RCMP Communication Services Sgt. Rob Vermeulen, Senior Media Relations Officer, told Asian Journal that six fulltime investigators and an analyst are still pursuing a number of leads.

Vermeulen said: “In June 2012, the transition began with the Air India Task Force becoming an investigative team under the E-Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (E-INSET) that consists of approximately 55 police investigators.”

He added: “The Air India team currently consists of six fulltime investigators along with one analyst.  The Air India team now has the ability to draw upon resources from E-INSET to assist in the Air India investigation as and when required. The investigative team is fully committed and continues to work with any and all agencies that can support our investigation.”

Verneulen said: “There are a number of investigative initiatives that remain active and on-going, but to comment further at this time would not be appropriate.”

He pointed out: “The bombing of Air India Flight 182 and [the bombing at] Narita airport in Japan are one of the largest, longest and most complex terrorist investigations the RCMP has ever undertaken. This terrorist act resulted in the murder of 331 victims and remains international in scope.”

 

 

AMRIK VIRK: ADVANCED EDUCATION MINISTER

Amrik Virk, who was elected MLA from Surrey-Tynehead, was appointed Minister of Advanced Education by Premier Christy Clark.

Clark introduced her new Executive Council to British Columbians at an event that included citizens from throughout the province. Her nominees were formally sworn in on June 10, at Government House by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.

Virk’s role as Advanced Education Minister:

* Work to ensure B.C.’s post-secondary institutions stay on the cutting edge of research.

* Ensure our institutions are equipped to prepare graduates for the jobs of the future, and ensure targets are set to match the skills B.C. needs with graduating students.

* Work closely with the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and the Minister of Education to ensure a seamless delivery of education and skills training from high school through to entry in the workforce.

 

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OPPOSES ‘PATKA’ BAN BY QUEBEC SOCCER BODY

Sikh MPs of the Conservative Party stood up in the House of Commons and slammed the racist decision of the Quebec Soccer Federation to ban ‘patkas’.

They also mocked the NDP and the Liberal MPs in the House for not speaking out on this issue.

Parm Gill, MP for Brampton-Springdale, spoke out against the ban and Minister of State (Sport) Bal Gosal spoke up in the House, stating: “We believe that amateur sports like soccer should encourage the participation of children, rather than exclude them. We see no valid reason why kids should be banned from playing soccer because of their religion. I encourage the Quebec Soccer Federation to follow the lead of soccer leagues across Canada and around the world, not to create barriers for children who want to play the sport they love.

“Furthermore, the Leader of the NDP and the Leader of the Liberal Party should be ashamed of their silence on this matter!”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada that took up the issue right away and informed the media said it was deeply saddened by a decision of the Quebec Soccer Federation’s (QSF) Board of Directors maintaining its prohibition on the wearing of turbans by Sikh players.

The federal NDP later told Asian Journal that they spoke to Gosal “several times over six months trying to have him engage in a lengthy discussion with New Democrats, but the minister never fully engaged. The minister stayed still and quiet despite the continuous calls from the NDP and then accused the NDP of being inactive on the issue.”

MPs Jinny Sims and Jasbir Sandhu phoned me from Ottawa to inform me that the NDP had issued a statement on the ban and had been vigorously pursuing the matter over the past months. Simms said she had posted a press release on her website but had no explanation about why she didn’t email the statement to Asian Journal.

Later, FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association), soccer’s world governing body, authorized the wearing of male head covers at all levels of Canadian soccer.

FIFA sent a letter to the Canadian Soccer Association on June 13 to inform them that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has agreed “to allow male players in Canada to wear head covers.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Soccer Association Board of Directors suspended the Quebec Soccer Federation for their non-compliance to the directive of allowing the wearing of “turbans / patkas / keski” by soccer players.

The federation said: “The suspension will be lifted once the Canadian Soccer Association receives demonstration that the Quebec Soccer Federation has lifted the ban and applies satisfactorily the Canadian Soccer Association’s policy in the matter.”

Finally on June 15, the Sikh community welcomed the news that the Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) would be lifting its ban on the turban.

Asian Journal slammed Quebec Premier Pauline Marois for her racist role in supporting the ‘patka’ ban.

 

NEW CLOVERDALE-LANGLEY RIDING: GREWAL VS HAYER

Back in February former Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal, whose wife Nina Grewal is MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, announced that he planned to run from the new federal riding of Cloverdale-Langley.

At the time, I wrote that then-Surrey-Tynehead MLA Dave Hayer was also reportedly aiming for the Conservative nomination from that federal riding.

This month, Hayer, who quit provincial politics, announced that he’s going for the Conservative nomination from this riding. He put up quotes from some MLAs, including Kevin Falcon, former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA and minister, and others praising him on his website.

Gurmant told me that he has represented this riding, which he says is basically the former Surrey Central riding, twice. “All the Cloverdale component is coming out of Surrey Central, which I represented from 1997 to 2004,” he said.

The first time he won by a margin of 2,800 and the second time by 10,000 votes against star Liberal candidate Peter Warkentin, when the then-Liberal prime minister and many federal ministers campaigned in the riding for their candidate.

“It will be fun!” Gurmant said.

The party will probably open up the nominations in October 2014. The federal election will be held in October 2015.

Later, Surrey businessman Paul Brar also announced his intention to run from this riding.

 

 

BHANGU’S HUSBAND SENTENCED TO LIFE

Manmeet Singh, who had pled guilty to second degree murder in the gruesome killing of his wife, Ravinder Bhangu, 24, in July 28, 2011, in Surrey was sentenced to life in prison and will not be eligible for parole for 16 years.

Crown and defense made a joint submission last week in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster for ineligibility for parole for 16 years and Justice Miriam Maisonville had reserved her decision until June 21.

Bhangu was murdered in a grisly manner by her husband who used a hatchet and a knife in the office of Sach Di Awaaz newspaper in the business complex located in the 8100 block of 128th Avenue in Surrey.

The couple fell in love while attending college in India and married in 2008. Singh sponsored his wife to Canada in 2009. The two lived with his family until April 2011, when Bhangu moved out. Singh ended up with depression, isolating himself, and stopped taking his epilepsy medication.

 

VANCOUVER POLICE OFFICERS STEVE AND ROGER RAI HONOURED

 Brothers Inspector Steve Rai and Sgt. Roger Rai of Vancouver Police Department were presented Exemplary Service awards by Vancouver’s Ross Street Gurdwara of Khalsa Diwan Society on Sunday – an honour that they richly deserve.

The awards were presented “in recognition of your commitment and achievement in law enforcement. Your services to the community and your career are inspirational to us all.”

The citation for Inspector Steve Rai read: “For the past 24 years, Vancouver Police Inspector Steve Rai has served and worked tirelessly in helping make Vancouver a safer city.  In his current assignment as the Commander of District 3, Steve leads a team of 150 police officers in Vancouver’s southeast sector.  This District is rich in ethnic diversity, commercial areas and large well established residential communities.  As well, District 3 has arguably some of the most challenging policing issues; from property offences to crimes of violence to domestic assaults.  Inspector Rai has confronted the crime problems in his District with the same energy and creativity as he approaches other areas he has worked.  Under his command District 3 has seen a drop in residential property crimes and violent offenses. … Having been born in India, raised and schooled in Vancouver; he has had a front row seat on the City’s growth and development.  To further his knowledge and understanding of crime problems and their solutions, Inspector Steve Rai recently completed a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice at the University of the Fraser Valley.”

The citation for Sgt. Roger Rai read: “Roger Rai is a 22-year member of the Vancouver Police Department.  During his policing career, Roger has worked a variety of positions from Operations Supervisor, Sex Crimes Investigator, Traffic Enforcement Officer, Recruiting Unit Investigator and, as a Neighbourhood Police Officer in the Khalsa Diwan Community Office, an initiative he led and brought to fruition as a unique model of public-police partnership and the only one of its kind in North America.  Roger has also been a member of the Vancouver Police Motorcycle Drill Team, and is currently a member of the Vancouver Police Basketball Team.”

 

SHABANA AZMI: SFU HONORARY DEGREE

Bollywood icon Shabana Azmi, seen in this photo with Asian Journal photographer Chandra Bodalia, received an honorary degree from SFU on June 12. She spoke about her life and work, focusing on the attitudes towards women on screen and in society, with Sex and Sensibility on June 11, as part of the SFU Vancouver Speaker Series.

Georgia Straight Editor Charlie Smith spoke to Azmi on the phone from Mumbai before her arrival and carried a very interesting and informative article titled “Shabana Azmi on Fire’s legacy, parallel cinema, colour-blind casting, and Bollywood exploitation.” (Website: www.straight.com)

Azmi, who acted in Deepa Mehta’s controversial film Fire, praised the Canadian director.

She told Smith: “Her relationship with her actors is really, really good. She depends a lot on her actors. She casts very carefully. And after that, she coaxes you, cajoles you, woos you. She does everything in her power to make sure that you remove your blocks and that you are able to give what it is that she wants.”

Azmi made a very insightful observation on India. She told Smith: “India is a country that lives in several centuries simultaneously. We have people living back in the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. And India’s people encapsulate all the contradictions from being a multireligious, multicultural, multilingual society. India’s audiences are not a monolith. So all kinds of films are being made and all kinds of films are being patronized by different sections of the audience.”

She told Smith that Bollywood had made great progress in the way it portrays women. She noted: “You would believe all that the heroines do—all that women do—is wear yellow chiffon saris and dance in the Alps, if you were to look at the trajectory of mainstream cinema. That happily is changing over the last five years. That is also happening because the newer lot of leading ladies are making some bold decisions…Vidya Balan has really had five back-to-back successful films in which she has played unconventional leading ladies.”

Azmi, who has a role in New York–based Indian director Mira Nair’s new film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, told Smith: “I’ve been wanting to work with Mira for a long time, even though I knew that it was a minuscule role. I just felt what she was saying was important. And the whole issue of the Muslim identity and fundamentalism needed to be portrayed from the South Asian perspective. All that we see is from the American perspective.”

 

 

RAJ CHOUHAN: ASSISTANT DEPUTY SPEAKER

Raj Chouhan, New Democrat MLA for Burnaby Edmonds, was selected as the assistant deputy speaker.

“It’s a great honour to be in this position serving the legislature and I look forward to using my skills and experience to serve in this new role. It is an acknowledgement of just how far we have has progressed in British Columbia over in the last century – from a time when people of color were not even allowed to vote as part of the electoral process to choosing the second Speaker of South Asian decent in B.C.,” said Chouhan.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker is a senior presiding officer of the Legislative Assembly, and is appointed by the House to perform the duties of the Speaker or Deputy Speaker in their absence. The role of Speaker is to preside over debates and make sure the House follows established rules of behaviour and procedure.

Raj Chouhan was first elected as the MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds in 2005, and was re-elected in 2009 and 2013. He has served as Opposition critic for labour and multiculturalism.

Raj was a founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union, served as the Director of Bargaining at the Hospital Employees Union for 18 years and was the Vice President of B.C. Human Rights Defenders since 2003.

 

 

MURDER-SUICIDE: GURPREET ATWAL & DILBER ATWAL

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team identified the victims of the June 19 suspected murder-suicide in Newton as Gurpreet Kaur Atwal, 30, and Dilber Singh Atwal, 49.

Surrey RCMP found two dead people at a home at 6773 145A Street when they went there to investigate a report of a disturbance. The Integrated homicide Investigation Team took over the investigation.

IHIT said that the victims were known to each other as they had been married for several years.

Sgt. Jennifer Pouind said: “This is a tragic death which has left three children without their parents, the family of the victims are asking for privacy during this extremely difficult time.”

Asian Journal had earlier reported that sources in the community said that the pair were an estranged couple. It was the man’s second marriage and his estranged wife had got restrain orders against him.