A Defence Lawyer Speaks Out: Fear Isn't the Answer to Calgary's Gangs

Canada has been seen as a nation providing a chance for a better life to people from all over the world for most of its history, and Calgary has embodied that spirit of diversity, intrepid adventure, and opportunity as successfully as any Canadian city, arguably better than some. That doesn't mean we've been without our share of problems, and Calgary's gang wars from the first decade of this century remain a sharp reminder of this fact.

Now, six years after those gang wars were brought to a close, Calgary is once again experiencing an increase in gun violence, and Calgary police are saying that gangs are once again at the root of the problem.

Today's alleged gangs are different than the FOB and FK gangs that plagued Calgary in the past; according to the police, they are smaller, formed more loosely, and dissolved more quickly and don't have the same sophisticated and far-reaching networks that developed in the larger gangs of yesteryear.

They do have one thing in common, though: they're made up of people who feel like outsiders in Calgary, and fear will only make the problem worse.

More Opportunities in Calgary Communities Means Fewer Gangs

The FOB and FK gangs believed to be responsible for so much violence in the early 2000s were made up predominantly of first- and second-generation Canadians from Southeast Asia. The majority of alleged Calgary gang members came from families who were struggling financially, and this combined with their already "outsider" status made many feel isolated and left out of the larger Calgary community.

Indeed, outreach programs put in place by the Calgary police and other organizations in Calgary have been at least as effective at reducing gang involvement as were law enforcement crackdowns on gang activity. As opportunities for inclusion and success were expanded in at-risk communities, gang affiliation declined.

Today's alleged  gang members, perhaps unsurprisingly, come from today's "outsiders" in the larger Calgary community, primarily young men of Middle Eastern descent, according to the Calgary Police; often first- or second-generation Canadians who speak a different language at home, have different customs and beliefs, and feel shut out of many of the opportunities open to other Calgarians.

It's the same problem all over again, and just as it took acceptance and outreach to help end Calgary's gang violence the first time, the same kind of understanding and carefully guided action is necessary this time around. Reacting with fear will only lead to greater feelings of isolation and the closing off of evermore opportunities and community connections.

Let's not let gangs turn Calgary into a city of closed doors, suspicion, and mistrust. Let's work to keep Calgary the same bastion of diversity and opportunity it always has been.

A Compassionate Calgary Defence Lawyer for Your Gang-Related Charges

If you or a family member has been charged with a gang-related crime in the Greater Calgary Area, you don't have to face it alone. Contact Calgary criminal defence lawyer Susan Karpa for a free initial consultation and get the help you deserve.