Gurmit Singh Dhak: Pitfalls of street life brought into sharp focus (with video)

Interview with a gangster who predicted his own death part of Odd Squad’s outreach to youth

By Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun

Click here to WATCH THE VIDEO

Four months before Gurmit Singh Dhak was gunned down outside Metrotown in October 2010, he predicted his own death in a chilling interview with Vancouver’s Odd Squad.

“Every day I’ve got to look over my shoulder,” Dhak told police officers Doug Spencer and Toby Hinton, who work with the non-profit educational group.

“I have got to worry — if I jump out of my car am I going to get shot? Or I could be walking in the mall and walking out and get shot. I don’t know.”

He also told them he regretted getting involved in gangs and the grief that it had caused him and his family.

“If I could turn back time, I would never join a gang. I would have just finished off my high school, got a better job, anything else. Anything is better than joining a gang. It is useless. You are going to get killed,” he said. “I want to get out. It is too late now to get out. I have too many enemies. “

One or more of those enemies shot him to death after he walked out of a Burnaby mall with his young family.

Now Dhak’s blunt message for kids to avoid the bad choices he made is making its way into B.C. classrooms through one of Odd Squad’s many videos and presentations.

Spencer, a gang expert who now works with Transit police, said he asked Dhak for the interview in 2010 when he was issuing a formal warning to the 32-year-old about the latest threat to his life.

At first, Dhak said no to the interview, but then called Spencer a week or so later to say he was willing to talk.

“He trusted us to tell the truth for the right reason,” said Spencer, who dealt with Dhak for years when he was with Vancouver police.

“He didn’t want other kids making his mistakes.”

Odd Squad is marking its 15th anniversary with a sold-out fundraising gala at the Vancouver Convention Centre tonight.

The unique charitable organization started off in the Downtown Eastside in 1997 when beat cops such as Hinton started getting the addicts they encountered daily to tell their stories on camera as a way to warn others of the pitfalls of street life.

And now Odd Squad has branched out to include anti-gang videos, such as the one featuring Dhak, as well as presentations to schools across the region.

“I don’t think anybody really predicted how compelling and powerful those presentations would be and how effective they would be in terms of assisting kids to make the right decisions in terms of their lives,” said society president Rob Rothwell, a retired Vancouver police superintendent.

He said that in 2012 alone, Odd Squad has facilitated 350 presentations to 38,000 kids though its programs.

Getting those affected by the problem to tell their own stories “has been the backbone or the fundamental of Odd Squad,” Rothwell said.

“It is not about adults or authority figures pointing a finger at a child and saying, ‘Don’t do this and don’t do that.’ It is about the young people themselves who’ve made poor decisions in terms of addiction and crime and violence, standing up and saying, ‘Look, don’t make the mistakes that I made,’” he said.

Rothwell said Odd Squad is reliant on donations — both corporate and individual — for its award-winning productions.

He said the impact of the presentations is being documented through academic research by Simon Fraser University.

“The degree of success is really quite startling,” he said.

The late Gurmit Dhak said in his Odd Squad interview that “schools should give better education on gangs.”

They should tell the real story about how bleak the existence is, he said.

“Deep down inside you are scared,” Dhak said. “You have got to think every day when you wake up in the morning ‘Is this going to be my last day that I am living?’”


© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more