Gurdev Hair was shot to death last week in Abbotsford.

“According to the provincial court database, Hair has an extensive criminal record, dating back to 1997, with multiple convictions that include theft, breaching his bail and probation conditions, possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of stolen property, trafficking in a controlled substance, driving while prohibited, escaping from lawful custody, break and enter, unauthorized possession of a firearm, fleeing from a police officer and robbery.

Hair’s most recent offence – possession of stolen property – occurred last Friday (Aug. 12) and he was scheduled to next appear in Abbotsford provincial court on Sept. 22.

A 1997 court document indicates that Hair was convicted in relation to a February 1995 drive-by shooting, in which he had been hired to shoot a Mission couple who had allegedly told civic authorities about an unlawful suite in their neighbourhood.

The couple and their five-year-old grandson were sleeping when Hair fired several shots into the home, according to the documents. No bullets struck anyone, but they embedded in walls, a stairway, the front door and other areas of the house.”

In his long list of crimes, there is this account of someone hiring Hair to so some serious threatening, if not deadly harm to people who took to heart the mantra that “By-law enforcement is complaint driven.”  This Mission couple dared to report and almost lost their lives in the effort.

Some years ago I got an unmistakable warning from people who were not pleased with my determination to have a level playing field in Abbotsford. I told City Hall to either enforce their own by-laws or just let all landowners know that they could rent out their sheds and shacks and trailers, and dice and slice their houses into separate suites and jump in to the rich rental business that their neighbours were clearly doing.  Under the table cash for illegal suites is a very lucrative business, and one that has gone largely unchecked.

Illegal suites is also a major impediment to honest people providing affordable housing in BC.  It’s pretty hard to compete with players who bypass all the cost incurred by honest builders and landlords.  Landlords of illegal suites contribute nothing to the infrastructure of a community on behalf of the hidden renters.

Back in the time of Grant Acheson, (Director of Development Services) at City Hall, I’d become astounded at the obvious bias shown in when and where, our City did, or did not enforce their by-laws. Finally, after months of useless interaction I phoned Grant and told him I was so angry, I would be running for Council in the next election.  Until that day, such a thought had never crossed my mind.

In one case where an owner had at the very least ten illegal rentals on his property and burned mountains of garbage at least once a week, because the trucks only pick up a few bags of household garbage, I went toe to toe with the man. The acrid smoke from his burning piles was making my asthmatic neighbour gasp for air, to the point she was becoming really sick,….. so the guy knew who I was.  I’ve never made anonymous complaints.

The next morning Grant phoned to tell me they had found six suites in the new house, and that they would be in touch with me within two weeks. I heard little from the by-law officer, other than he’d not been able to find anyone home, so could not follow through, and in any case the appliances from the suites had been moved out to the barn, so really case closed.  He’d chosen not to see the multiplicity of renters spread out in ‘seasonal workers shed’, trailers, garages, add-on structures, etc.

The warning  (which I will regale you with if you’re ever interested) sent my way was unambiguous, but nothing further happened beyond it, probably because these folk knew they had City Hall in the palm of their hand.  After all,…. making easy money on illegal suites is such a fast way to get rich, here in Abbotsford and Surrey, why rock the boat by doing something nasty,… to a nobody like me.  Why draw more serious attention to yourself and possibly mess with such a profitable operation?

I am certainly not significant enough to actually get the authorities to do their jobs, so why worry about my ineffective protestations about justice and truth and by-law enforcement,……..silly concepts like that.  The folk who break all laws with impunity know I represent no threat to their swelling bank accounts.

Once I got past the initial inertia that freezes most of us when we see corruption, City Hall soon enough showed me that though they say “By-law enforcement is complaint driven,”  you may as well save yourself the bother of trying to get the authorities to enforce the rules that are their own creation. Because at the end of long, arduous interaction staff will patiently explain to you that this is all an exercise in futility.

Mayors and Councillors and staff have over these decades explained to me that even if they do pursue a scofflaw, if they warn him, if they start delivering fines,….the scofflaw may hire a lawyer, and then the city has to pay a lawyer.  And then time passes while multiple illegal rental income will continue to flow into the pockets of scofflaws.

If the case eventually winds it’s way up to court, staff have told me that chances are pretty good the judge will laugh them out of court.  All that time and effort and expense,…..for nothing.

So we end up with this:  Laws are written for law-abiding people.

Now the BC Government wants to remove all Land Use Contracts by 2024, and suddenly our Abbotsford Council wants to start approving large houses in my community, and I can see the future.  Much of this affordable housing has been snapped up by the folk who will likely turn our lovely community into an enclave of large houses and multiple illegal suites, like Townline Hill.

Mayor Henry Braun invited me to his office recently, because I wrote somewhat strongly about the local police refusing to pursue the case of a man caught on a security camera, stealing from and destroying a long-haul truck. The mayor told me local police can’t respond to all the calls about crime in our city, because so much of their resources in used up fighting the crime in the Townline Hill area, an enclave of dominantly South Asian landowners (and many hidden suites.)

After decades of seeing my local government avoid enforcing their own laws on South Asians who choose to build large houses and divide them into plural rental suites, I adamantly oppose removing our LUC,  to allow large houses and legal suites, in place of our loved and cared for mobile homes and gardens.   Aside from the taxes that are almost certain to increase significantly, it is the uncontrolled illegal suites that make me determined to fight this move by City Hall.

“Oh but Gerda, if you know a house has suites beyond the one that is allowed, all you have to do is phone us.  By-laws are complaint driven, don’t you know?”

Of course it must be that way.  We cannot expect that the Mayor or the Councillors or the almost 1,000 paid staff ever to drive through Abbotsford, the city they govern.  We can’t expect them to ever open their eyes to see what the little people see.  Why would they allow their tender ears to hear about the real city they preside over?  Obviously it is up to the working blokes to patiently pay for all things city hall,…the buildings, the wages, pensions,… But then the tax-paying public is asked to strain from the sidelines to ensure by-laws are enforced.

In an enclave where most of the people make money on illegal suites there will be few who want to report lucrative by-law infractions.

For others who might care that all of us in a shared society play by the same rules, there is an occasional warning for those who dare to point out where that’s not happening.

The Mission couple got a warning, not to report on illegal suites. In a case of grim justice, the enforcer died at the hands of his own crowd.