At the age of 12, Pete Gill was hanging out with a group of kids in South Surrey that would eventually include some of the most notorious South Asian gangsters British Columbia has ever seen.
He was getting into trouble and had already been kicked out of school three times. One day, a policeman told him, “Keep it up and one day I’ll throw you in the trunk of my car and take you to the juvenile detention center.”
“I was young and I was just forming my identity. But I was on the wrong track and this incident did it for me. I realized I had to change my narrative and get an education if I didn’t want to go this route, ”said Gill, who is now a sergeant and 25-year veteran with the Victoria Police Service.
“The greatest tragedy in life is the waste of talent.”
Gill, 52, is now the Lower Island Regional Director of Khalsa Aid, an aid organization associated with the Sikh faith.
As the organization provides assistance to all groups throughout the year, the focus on marginalized and vulnerable youth in the coldest and darkest time of the year clearly resonates with Gill .
This month, Khalsa Aid is partnering with the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Center, the Oasis Society for the Spiritual Health of Victoria, Threshold Housing, Foundry Victoria, Rise Together and Beacon Youth Shelter to set up 100 personalized care packages for marginalized and vulnerable young people.
On Saturday, around fifty volunteers gathered to assemble the care packages, the content of which differed slightly depending on the specific requests of the different agencies.
The Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Center had requested appropriate articles for immigrant children spending their first winter in Canada. Rise Together requested socks, gloves, underwear and personal hygiene products.
The Victoria Police Department will include personal hygiene kits and help distribute them to local youth shelters.
Gill sees common ground between his faith and his profession – both are committed to serving the community.
While the relationship between police and youth can be acrimonious at times, it is possible to change stereotypes by changing experiences, said Gill. “If we are to change the narrative, we have to show the police as a group of compassionate and caring people.
“The care packages are an opportunity for us to show warmth and compassion to a segment of the population that we believe is underserved. “