By Sonia Sharma
This weekend marked what organizers believe to be a giant step forward for the East Indian community. An open discussion about the increase of violence among East Indian youth was held on the University of Calgary campus on Sat., Dec. 2.
Motivated by recent negative media portrayals of East Indian youth, including an article in the Calgary Herald’s "Observer," two East Indian student organizations from campus arranged this event. The Indian Student’s Association and the Khalsa Student’s Association jointly hosted the event, which was open to the public.
Nitin Puri, one of the main organizers felt the stereotyping of East Indian youth as "violent" would be harmful to the East Indian image.
"The article in the Herald was an eye-opener for me and many other concerned youth," said Puri. "We felt that such negative media portrayals only fuel some people’s desire to make a name for themselves."
Present at the forum were members of the Calgary Police Service and Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz. Speaking on behalf of U of C Counselling Services was Anila Umar, who was, until recently, Co-chair of the ISA.
During the panel discussion, junior high students and university students spoke about their own
experiences with racism and violence. The media was mentioned quite often–many felt the media gives unfair coverage to the East Indian community, focusing on incidents of youth violence rather than positive members of the community. One audience member
argued the media should stop attaching national origin to these groups or individuals.
Constable Doug Jones also felt that though the priority for the police service is to target group crimes based on race, criminals should be looked at as individuals.
Specific incidents on campus recently, including a fight that broke out at the MacEwan Student Centre Food Court, were mentioned. A general consensus was that a handful of non-students come on campus and start these arguments.
University students then complained that Campus Security should deter these individuals from coming to campus.
According to Campus Security Officer Tanya Simister, these types of forums are helpful to her and her team members.
"I think this is a great start," said Simister. "We are given diversity training and taught mediation techniques, but these types of discussions show us that university students want to change the way things are."
Alternative solutions on how to rectify the occurrence of East Indian youth violence were discussed. There are many volunteering opportunities available where you can help troubled youth and make a difference for the community. For more information on these services, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.