BY SURJIT SINGH FLORA
It was a time for new beginnings last week, as Peel Police and members of the Punjabi community met to discuss the past and future of community connection in Brampton.
Media representatives in the city were front and centre as the Canadian Punjabi Broadcasters Association hosted a meeting with Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah, and other senior officers at Queen’s Manor Event Centre, in a bid to strengthen community relations.
The meeting was more than a press conference — it was an effort by both sides to establish healthy and cordial relationships between the police force and the community. “(We are) committed to keeping our community safe and informed by building strong relationships with its partners in Peel,” said Peel Police Services Board Vice-Chair Ron Chatha, who organized the Oct. 28 meeting.
The function was attended by members of the Chief’s management team, including deputy chiefs Marc Andrews, Anthony Odoardi, Nick Milinovic, and Anthony Odoardi. A number of Superintendent and Inspector-level officers were also present to answer questions and discuss opportunities to strengthen the relationship with the community.
The genesis for the meeting took nearly a decade, as previous efforts by retired Chief Noel Catney to maintain good relationships with the Punjabi community, alongside efforts of the Peel Multicultural Council and events such as the Race Against Racism, were marred by incidents that forced the community into a protest against the police, including demonstrations over farmers’ rights in India earlier this spring.
In the years that followed the outreach efforts, the police and the community severed all ties. The event began with a roundtable meeting in which the reporting on thefts of truck trailers, drugs, gun crime and other thefts were discussed, along with the police’s attitude towards traffic concerns in the city.
Duraiappah, a Sri-Lankan born immigrant who previously served as the Deputy Chief of Police for Halton Police, told the assembled journalists that he was keen on re-establishing good relations and trust between the Punjabi community and the police force, and promised to help shape an environment that would make Peel one of the largest immigrant majority areas in the world. The second portion of the meeting was devoted to reconciliation with the community.
Several community organizations and non-profit groups, including India Rainbow, Peel Multicultural Council, Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwara Council, along with various sports groups, Gurdwara members and personalities from all walks were recognized for their support and help to connect community and police resources together. While the media is the most visible and effective in strengthening the relationship between police and community at all levels of their operations, representatives of the force indicated, the reality is that “all members of the community can play an active role.”
It was also expressed during the meeting by speakers that others in the community would take this positive step of reconciliation and continue to improve their community. In the third portion of the evening, Duraiappah delivered a keynote address at the event center, where several speakers addressed the crowd.
The Canadian Punjabi Broadcasters Association presented a commemorative insignia for Vice-Chair Ron Chatha, and the Great Friends Club honoured Duraiappah for his support since taking PWN Staff Photo the role of Chief. The coordinators of the Canadian Punjabi Broadcasters Association, including Jagdish Grewal, and Sarabjit Singh, took to the podium to speak about the value of the community’s connection.
Leaders from all political parties attended the event, as well as numerous dignitaries, including Dufferin- Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones Brampton South MPP Prabhmeet Sarkaria, Brampton South MP Sonia Sidhu, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson and local/regional councillors from Brampton.