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Slain UBCO security guard’s family mourns loss of ‘bubbly, positive’ person

Harmandeep Kaur’s parents arrived from India thinking they’d be visiting their daughter in hospital
Harmandeep Kaur, shown in a family handout photo, died after being attacked last weekend at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia, where she worked as a security guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS-HO

Harmandeep Kaur was working as a security guard at the University of B.C.’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna when she was attacked last weekend. RCMP have said a suspect who was also employed there was arrested under the Mental Health Act and could face a murder charge.

Kiranjot Kaur said she attended a funeral Saturday for the cousin she’d spoken with every day on the phone as they shared the goings on of their lives in separate towns after living together in Vancouver for two years.

“We discussed everything with each other,” said Kiranjot Kaur, who moved to Squamish, north of the big city, while her cousin left for the Okanagan city of Kelowna to work as an assistant restaurant manager.

But when the restaurant closed, Kaur found a job as a security guard, and she seemed to be enjoying the university environment, Kiranjot Kaur said.

Her life ended there when she was hit over the head, according to what police have told the family, Kiranjot Kaur said of the woman who’d arrived in Canada as an international student in December 2015.

She received permanent residency status in Canada in January and planned to become a paramedic, Kiranjot Kaur said, describing her cousin as intelligent, funny and willing to help anyone.

Her family called Kaur “Haha,” which is the pronunciation of the “H” character in Punjabi.

Now, they’re left to mourn the young woman whose parents arrived from India thinking they’d be visiting their daughter in hospital, Kiranjot Kaur said. The news of their daughter’s death had been broadcast in their homeland, but relatives took care to shield them from it, she added.

Harminder Kaur refused to believe family members who said there would not be a visit to any hospital because her daughter had died, Kiranjot Kaur said.

It was only when they showed her a bag of her daughter’s jewelry, received from the RCMP, that Harminder Kaur broke down, she said.

“It’s like a dream,” she said of trying to come to grips with the reality that she’ll never see her cousin again.

Harmandeep Kaur’s parents were expecting to visit their daughter in April and travel with extended family members to several B.C. communities as well as Alberta, Kiranjot Kaur said.

“We had a plan that we were going to spend some time in Squamish and then we’d go to Kelowna and afterwards we were going to Calgary.”

Kiranjot Kaur said the family is grateful for the support they’ve received as they grieve Harmandeep’s death.

Hundreds of people gathered at the university campus last week to honour the young woman.

Amarjit Lalli, president of the Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society in Kelowna, said a prayer service will be held for her on Monday, and a Punjabi-speaking grief counsellor will be available Thursday on Zoom.

“It’s basically to give people tools on how to deal with grief, how to deal with tragedy,” he said.

Lalli said he watched the funeral on Saturday remotely, and that it was “gut wrenching.”

“It brought tears to my eyes,” he said, adding he was touched to hear earlier from the young woman’s co-workers that they’d celebrated her permanent residency status just four days before she was assaulted.

“She was just such a bubbly person, always positive. The day she got her permanent residency they said it was all high-fives, jumping, full of joy.”

—Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

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