Fifteen years after Canada’s second-worst mass murder, domestic violence continues to put women at risk.
A candlelight vigil will be held Tuesday to mark the shooting of nine members of the Gakhal and Saran families by an estranged relative.
“For the surviving family, they want people to learn from what happened to their family,” said Debby Hamilton, Transition House executive director.
On April 5, 1996, the Gakhal and Saran families were preparing for a wedding when the husband of one of the women arrived at a home on Okanagan Avenue and began shooting.
Killed were Karnail and Darshan Gakhal; son Jaspal; daughters Balwinder, Kalwinder, Harvinder, Rajwar and Jasbir Saran; and son-in-law Roger Saran.
“It’s important to remember the horrible consequences of domestic violence,” said Hamilton.
“This is the benchmark of what can happen when things go terribly wrong.”
In a typical year, Transition House provides shelter to 500 women and children fleeing abusive situations. Some years, that number climbs to 700 people.
“There are also a lot of women who don’t come to Transition House to stay but they reach out to us for support,” said Hamilton.
“Our services are busier than ever. It (domestic abuse) is still happening and people are living in misery.”
The vigil starts at 6 p.m. at the memorial outside of the Vernon library.
Following the ceremony, there will be Indian and western refreshments in the library meeting room, and residents will have a chance to meet with the family.
Besides relatives of the victims, the vigil attracts friends and people who don’t know the family but were touched by the tragedy.
“People in Vernon know exactly where they were when this happened,” said Hamilton of the murders.