From Kabul to Canada

2017-01-16 10:33 PST

Sgt. Bari Emam

Sgt. Bari Emam currently works in the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (BC). CFSEU-BC is British Columbia’s ‘integrated anti-gang police agency’, working to end gang violence and organized crime in the province.


Escaping from a war torn Afghanistan in 1989, the Emam family settled in Canada and tried to establish a life for themselves. First in Winnipeg, then in Vancouver, they very quickly came to understand that life was no longer simply about staying alive, but about truly appreciating the privilege it is to live in a country that affords its people rights and freedoms, as well as safety and security.

In 1978 a pro-Soviet government took power in Afghanistan and suppressed opposition from the traditional Muslim Afghans. But by the spring of 1979, most of the country was in rebellion and the government called for assistance from the Soviet Union. The Soviet-Afghan War lasted nine years, though there continued to be unrest in the country. Insurgent groups fought against the Soviet army and allied Afghan forces. 850 thousand to 1.5 million people lost their lives, and millions of Afghanis fled the country.

The Emam family came to Canada with their four children, became citizens in 1992 and established a life for themselves in Vancouver, where they’ve made a home for the last 25 years. Sergeant Bari Emam was 15 when his family left Kabul, Afghanistan, where he had grown up. But he never once talked about what a struggle it was to make a life in Canada because of the horrors and realities faced by the people living in Afghanistan. If peace and security are missing, nothing else matters,  says Sgt. Emam. Sometimes it’s even more important than food. The perpetual sense of fear is unsettling. Living amongst discord and civil unrest, never knowing when your basic human rights would be violated made him appreciate the sense of calm and peace he got in Canada.

Sgt. Emam became interested in policing upon finishing school. He viewed it as an honourable profession and one that truly did help people because as a police officer you had the ability to affect and influence lives. Seeing what it was like to live in a country with so much distrust for authority figures, policing in Canada meant giving people a sense of justice, and he wanted to be part of a police force the community trusted. ...Human life has no value in parts of the world that fall victim to war, people are treated as if they are less human, according to Sgt. Emam. So protecting people's safety is the ultimate satisfaction as a police officer for me.

He joined the RCMP in 2001 and was initially posted in North Vancouver. He then moved on to become an investigator, supervisor and team leader with IHIT and is currently working at CFSEU-BC. Sgt. Emam also managed to achieve both his Bachelors degree and Masters in Criminology from the University of the Fraser Valley. None of this would be possible if his family hadn’t escaped the turmoil in Afghanistan.

There would have been very little opportunity for an education, a career, or normalcy living in chaos. Most people in that time, in Afghanistan, were just trying to stay alive. Opportunity is everything, and by coming to Canada, Sgt. Emam made the most of every opportunity, never taking for granted what a privilege it is to live in peace.

If peace and security are missing, nothing else matters
—Sgt. Bari Emam

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