Members of British Columbia’s Taiwanese Canadian community said they were heartbroken but proud as they paid tribute to RCMP Const. Shaelyn Yang, who was stabbed to death this week.
William Tsai, a resident of Richmond, B.C., said he got to know Yang four years ago when she was a civilian volunteer working to raise awareness of mental health issues among teenagers.
“Her passion and dedication to lifting up others shone through when I met her years ago,” said Tsai in an interview conducted in Mandarin.
“Her volunteering services left teenagers feeling inspired with goals of making a difference in others’ lives, just like her. Many teenagers saw her as a role model.”
Yang, 31, who also went by the given name Tzu-Hsin, died after an altercation Tuesday morning while she accompanied a municipal employee at a homeless campsite in Burnaby, B.C., east of Vancouver. Yang shot and wounded a man during the encounter.
Jongwon Ham, 37, has been charged with first-degree murder and is expected to make a court appearance on Nov. 2.
Yang had been a police officer since December 2019, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald said during an emotional news conference on Tuesday.
Tsai said Yang’s loss left many community members with mixed feelings.
“We felt heartbroken upon hearing the tragic news but also proud of her because of her contributions to Canada,” he said.
Ruby Ba, president of B.C.’s Taiwanese Canadian Association, said the community will do whatever it can to support Yang’s family, and has been in contact with the RCMP about holding a memorial in her honour.
“The Taiwanese community has been talking about paying tribute to Const. Yang … We will be there whenever and wherever we can to help out.
“Right now, we are just waiting to see if there are any further announcements released to the public by the police,” said Ba.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Taiwan’s de facto diplomatic office in Vancouver, said Yang was the daughter of immigrants from Taichung in central Taiwan. Her parents will fly from Taiwan to Vancouver to attend Yang’s funeral, it said.
“We have been in contact with the family and will provide all assistance and support to the family,” said the spokesperson.
Tsai said community members hope to hold a memorial next month to pay tribute to Yang.
Court records show a warrant for Ham’s arrest on a separate assault charge was issued Monday, the day before the fatal altercation.
On Wednesday, Sgt. Timothy Pierotti of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said Yang was not at the park to execute the warrant. Instead, she was helping the city employee inform Ham — the occupant of a lone tent in the park — that he could not stay there, he said.
Court records show the alleged assault occurred March 17 and Ham was also charged with assault and wilfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer on Feb. 15, 2021. Both alleged attacks occurred in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby issued a statement describing Yang’s death as “a tragic loss for the community.”
“Having experienced Constable Yang’s care for the community and seeing her compassion for those she worked in and among, we have only the highest praise for her,” the statement said.
— Nono Shen, The Canadian Press