It just takes a few bad apples to spoil the whole crop.
That message has been driven home to the members of the Tamanawis Wildcats senior boys basketball team over the past week.
On Feb. 2, the team - which comprises solely Indo-Canadian players - was in Kelowna for a tournament when the whole trip went sideways.
For unknown reasons, two of the players thought it would be a good idea to purchase replica handguns from a dollar store.
A chaperone confiscated one of the faux weapons, but the second one remained hidden - until a couple of plainclothes police officers saw the kid tucking the cap gun into his pants.
The next thing the players knew, their pregame meal at a sandwich shop came to an abrupt end as police cars, armed officers, police dogs and even a helicopter swarmed the eatery to arrest them. The kids were made to file out of the restaurant with their hands in the air before being handcuffed and searched. When the second toy gun surfaced, the players were chewed out by the police for their lack of common sense before being released.
The Wildcats lost all three games in the tournament and were still shook up by the incident when they returned home to Newton. The kids were ashamed of what happened and were embarrassed to face their classmates when school resumed on Monday morning.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their great Okanagan adventure strikes a blow against everything many of the players have worked toward for years.
The police takedown was featured in media reports across the country and to the casual observer, the accompanying footage showed a familiar scene - a group of young Indo-Canadian males from Surrey being detained by the police.
To be honest, I initially rolled my eyes at the story thinking, "Here we go again, another black eye for Surrey." It was only after speaking with Wildcats coach Surinder Grewal that I realized the impact of the Kelowna incident.
While I lumped the event into a Surrey-goofs-again file, Grewal was dismayed that the footage showed a group of brown faces facing the business end of police weapons. Again.
The Indo-Canadian community has been rocked in recent years by the actions of a small fragment who have emerged as highprofile players in the Lower Mainland's underworld.
Drug dealing, shootings, gang warfare, smuggling, kidnappings, ICBC fraud, spousal abuse - the media is full of such stories and many of them feature Indo-Canadians as the perpetrators.
Is this a true reflection of the Indo-Canadian community? Not a chance. I'm willing to bet only a small percentage are involved in criminal activities. The rest - the vast majority - are honest, hard-working people trying their best to build a life in Canada. While the bad apples get all the attention in the headlines and on the TV news, a lot of good things are being overlooked.
Indo-Canadians are extremely generous when it comes to fundraising and disaster relief efforts around the world.
The community raises large amounts of money for charity in British Columbia as well as blood drives and other public health initiatives.
All of those attributes, however, are lost by the actions of a few bad apples. What the Wildcats learned in Kelowna is that a group of young Indo-Canadian males carry with them a troublemaker label. It's not for anything they have done, it's a kind of guilt by association with others who are truly rotten to the core.
The kids playing for the Wildcats are not criminals, aspiring drug dealers or gang bangers. The Wildcats are just a group of high school kids who happen to have a couple of members who made an incredibly stupid decision.
Guess what? Stupid decisions and learning from the consequences are part of growing up. Granted, this one is pretty high on the whattheheckwereyouthinking scale, but everybody has done something in their youth they look back on with regret.
Youthful stupidity is not confined to the Indo-Canadian community. Need proof? Log on to Youtube and watch footage of last June's Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver.
There are a whole lot of young white faces in those crowds, but not many functioning brain cells.
The Wildcats are in the middle of a very successful basketball season. The team has been ranked among the top 10 in the province all season and many of the key players - none of whom were packing plastic in Kelowna last week - have good grades and are aspiring to play college basketball in the future.
But instead of focusing on hoops and an upcoming playoff run through the Fraser Valleys and Provincials, Grewal has been busy calling college coaches to reassure them about the character of his players.
It's a hard lesson to learn, but hopefully those players who were unceremoniously marched out of the sandwich shop at gunpoint now realize that the actions of a few can stain the reputation of the entire group.
Michael Booth can be reached at mbooth@ thenownewspaper.com
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