There hasn’t been a time in the 20 years since Reena Virk was murdered when I don’t think of her while driving over the Craigflower Bridge. I think of her, and the incomprehensible acts of bullying and violence that occurred there on the night of Nov. 14, 1997.
At the time I was working as a youth worker in the Nexus program at the Boys and Girls Club on Pandora Street. The provincially funded program offered a bridge for vulnerable and at-risk youth. Some were in gangs, some were in care and some from the heart of the Uplands. They were making the transition from jail, or detention, back to school.
None of them were directly involved in the murder of Reena Virk, though some of their friends were.
My job was to teach the kids about plants, garden and outdoor activities. During our many field trips out to Saanich farms we crossed the Craigflower Bridge. I could feel it in my stomach as we approached. Even though as youth counsellors we needed to keep it together, we all found it impossible and it was agreed that tears were a healthy response.
In anticipation of crossing the bridge the youth would argue, swear and fights would break out. During trips to Metchosin we would pull over at Esquimalt Lagoon for a snack and to discuss anti-bullying and grief.
I have returned to Kosapsom Park and Craigflower Bridge since, and unsuccessfully searched the area for a monument to honour the life of Reena Virk and the event that occurred there.
It may be 20 years later since the death of Reena Virk but violence, bullying and racism has not ended. It is widespread, global and yes, even here in our backyards in Saanich.
This week, I got brave and called Reena Virk’s parents and spoke with Manjit, her father, about the monument.
Manjits Virk’s shining words filled my heart and gave me hope for the kind of Saanich and world we wish to see.
“We must replace bullying with patience, love and understanding,” he said.
It is these words that I feel would make a perfect monument to honour Reena Virk’s life and the describe the kind of world we want to see on in the future.