Dozens pay tribute to murdered Victoria teen Reena Virk

Father advises gatherers to maintain a dialogue with their children as they reach adolescence and seek independence

Dozens of community members gathered in Tuesday’s rain and wind for a sobering hour of tribute to Reena Virk at the place of her death, Kosapsom Park.

It was there that Virk, then 14, was kicked, punched, and eventually drowned in the Gorge Waterway below the old Craigflower Bridge on the night of Nov. 14, 1997. It shocked the nation when it was announced she was murdered by a group of classmates and friends (known as the Shoreline Six which included Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski), the oldest of which was 16. The details were gruesome and the conspiring of the teens to keep the murder a secret from authorities and parents for nearly a week caught international attention.

Local organization Artemis Place Society and Learning Through Loss organized Tuesday’s tribute.

Minister of Education Rob Fleming outlined the legacy of anti-bullying that’s been deployed in the B.C. school system since then. Virk’s father, Manjit, also spoke. He spoke of putting family first and the importance of maintaining a dialogue with children as they reach adolescence and seek independence.

“We know there will be times when these things will happen but let’s look at our own family situations,” Manjit said. “What our kids learn in the family stays with them.

“Reena was protected, she was raised with love and kindness [and] she was trusting. When she went to school she had a hard time, people bullied her, people thought she was different [and] she was very puzzled. Why would people pick on her. We always told her, this is part of life, people have different values, they’ll mistreat you, be kind to them, talk to teachers, talk to us.”

But Reena was at a crucial time in her young life, seeking independence from her parents, which is a natural thing, Manjit confirmed.

“She wanted to hang out with these girls [and] as parents we were really concerned. We knew she was a very trusting person. They told her the story, ‘We’re your friends,’ but at the same time she was afraid of them.”

Reena’s death resonated with people internationally. In the time since, Manjit and Suman (Reena’s mother) have been dedicated to several causes and across the province, the Virk name has been affiliated with anti-violence and anti-bullying.

READ MORE: It’s been 20 years since death of Reena Virk

“Reena’s life did not go in vain,” Manjit said Tuesday, pointing to the many anti-bully programs and awareness now in place.

The murder and its cover-up certainly stunned Staff Sgt. Chris Horsley and the Saanich Police. Horsley was only three years into the job when he handled the media relations role for Saanich Police at the time.

“There were murders in Saanich but not one of this magnitude, who happened to be girls,” Horsley said Tuesday.

Within 24 hours the news of the murder, which took a week to get out, had gone international. It changed the department and was a catalyst for many of the programs Saanich Police runs today, Horsley said.

“We have a Community Engagement division, youth investigators, a bike squad, school liaisons, and all work hard on crime prevention programs which … take years to see those benefits,” Horsley said. ”My own daughter, born two days after Reena’s death, went through the school system, and one of her assignments was to read the book about Reena Virk. That was a barometer for me.”

Ten years after the murder of Reena her dad recounted it in a book Reena: A Father’s Story. It told of Reena’s upbringing and also included just how cruel the final moments of Reena’s life were.

“My message is to keep the family together, have strong family ties, do things with one another, now we live in a world online…,” Manjit said. “Put the [devices] down and spend time with one another.”

In 2005, Saanich’s Rebecca Godfrey also published a book, with an investigative journalist look at how a group of youth turned so violent, called Under the Bridge: The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk.

reporter@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Approximately a hundred people attended Remembering Reena, a commemoration of the 20-year anniversary of the death of Reena Virk. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Just Posted

Cowichan Valley residents can help mark World Alzheimer’s Month

Two-part online discussion series called “Demystifying advocacy” on Sept. 28 and 29

Island Corridor launches survey to determine importance of Vancouver Island rail line

“ICF remains 100 per cent committed to the restoration of full rail service on Vancouver Island”

Who’s running in Cowichan?

A list of Cowichan candidates for the upcoming provincial election

Cowichan Aquatic Centre will reopen on Oct. 13

But facility will only be open on a limited basis for time being

Editorial: $6.5 million for health care badly needed

Help is on the way for people in the Cowichan Valley without a family doctor.

Three years for serial bank robber who hit southern Vancouver Island branch

Lucas Bradwell was wanted for robberies in Abbotsford, Sidney and Vancouver

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, but it didn’t happen

Penticton woman sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter of teen boyfriend

Kiera Bourque, 24, was sentenced for manslaughter in the 2017 death of Penticton’s Devon Blackmore

B.C. Green leader says NDP abandoning environmental plan

Horgan’s claim of unstable government false, Furstenau says

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Transgender B.C. brothers debut fantasy novel as author duo Vincent Hunter

‘Transgender people are being misrepresented in popular fiction and media, and we aim to change that’

‘Won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving:’ Trudeau says COVID-19 2nd wave underway

In all, COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

Most Read