Lower Mainland counsellor says parents play key role in keeping youth out of crime

In the midst of ongoing gang violence across Metro Vancouver experts believe parents play an important role in keeping youth out of crime. Miranda Fatur reports on the call for parents to be emotionally present.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As the Lower Mainland sees a rise in brazen incidents of violence connected to gang conflicts, a counsellor is suggesting parents in the South Asian community can help mitigate the number of South Asian men and boys that may be more susceptible to recruitment, by taking emotional accountability.

Vijay Mann, with Mann Counselling and Consulting, works with at-risk and crime-entrenched youth. On Monday, he published a letter online addressing the reactions he’s noticed the South Asian community have in regards to local gang violence.

“Every time our youth is murdered or in the news related to gang-violence, we shake our heads. We may even look around to see where the blame can be placed. But little introspection comes afterward,” his letter reads.

He adds while there are systemic issues that also disproportionally target immigrant, minority, and marginalized communities, “We must also address our own accountability.”


In an interview with NEWS 1130, Mann says, “It starts in the home. It starts at the values that we’re instilling in these kids from a young age.”

“Immigrant communities have a tough time because, on one side, the parents are coming to this country for a better life and to provide opportunities for themselves and their kids that they wouldn’t have otherwise. But in that there is sacrifices,” he explains.

“A lot of these parents are working shift jobs, and what’s lost in that is the meaningful time and meaningful conversation that they can have with their kids at a young age. And when you lose that, you have a fractured emotional connection with these kids.”

On the other end, because parents like ones in the South Asian community are doing their best to provide a good life, Mann says they may be compensating money for attention or meaningful conversations with their kids.

“And from that, we get the idea that the kids understand that maybe money is more important than real emotional connection.”

Unfortunately for children who may not have a close bond with their family, Mann says it can make them targets for gangs preying for recruitments by making these kids feel like they can have a sense of family and community with them.

“Next thing you know is, they’re entrenched and it’s hard to get out.”

Mann explains it’s important parents and guardians in the community are not blamed. While these are family dynamics that Mann notices in South Asian communities, he says it’s also because the group has been burdened with emotional baggage and intergenerational trauma.

Related Article: Metro Vancouver gang conflict won’t be solved by blaming racialized communities: commentator

Mann tells NEWS 1130, through his work he’s noticed many young men don’t have emotionally enrolled fathers in the household; however, he adds, “I don’t blame the fathers.”

“They never learned about emotional intelligence themselves, especially in immigrant communities. They came here, they’re working, working, working, trying to establish themselves in the next generation. And what get lost in that is that deep meaningful human connection and understanding emotions.”

And shame is a barrier for South Asians to reach out to services like counselling Mann says.

“They don’t want people finding out what’s going on and these old cultural ideas that you keep everything in home are so pervasive, and it’s really damaging, because people aren’t finding outlets for their emotions, or they’re not finding the resources to help them create positive emotional connections at home.”

Mann admits, “these are tough questions” for the community to ask and solve for themselves, but adds when it comes to leaving kids vulnerable to gang recruitment, it’s a “matter of life and death.”

“We have to start asking ourselves now how much longer can we kind of put this under the rug and blame the schools for not having enough counsellors, or blaming the RCMP for not enough outreach or whatever it is. It starts with connections at home.”

Mann says it’s taken counsellors like him years to start a dialogue about stigma and let families know that it’s okay to talk to professionals.

“There’s no shame in this.”

He explains that families can start supporting young men by having open dialogue and building a sense of trust, openness, compassion, and a non-judgmental point of view.

“And when kids aren’t getting this at home, where they feel that parents are too busy, or whatever it is, those meaningful connections are not in place — they’ll find that somewhere else.”

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He adds, parents need to be aware of potential warning signs that their children are getting involved in gangs, including spending less time at home or communicating less with their parents.

In Mann’s letter, he adds he’s thankful for the members of the community that continue to do the best they can to support South Asian men.

“To the dads already emotionally present in their children’s lives: THANK YOU. To the moms doing the best they can: THANK YOU. To the big brothers and sisters (biological or not) doing the best they can: THANK YOU.”

– With files from Jonathan Szekeres

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