Family and community mark grim anniversary 20 years after death of Reena Virk

Today marks the grim anniversary of the death of Reena Virk.

14-year-old Saanich girl swarmed, beaten and drowned by other teenagers in 1997

20 years after the death of his daughter Reena, Manjit Virk says the community has helped him heal. (Megan Thomas/CBC News)

Family, friends and community members are gathering in Victoria on Tuesday to remember 14-year-old Reena Virk, who was killed twenty years ago today.

In November 1997, Virk was swarmed, beaten and drowned by other teenagers in what became one of Canada's most notorious crimes. Virk was lured to a secluded area under a Victoria-area bridge and beaten by a group of teens, including Kelly Ellard.

Virk managed to walk away, but Ellard and co-accused Warren Glowatski followed Virk and found her on the ground. Ellard held Virk underwater until she stopped moving.

Reena Virk's body was found eight days after she was swarmed and beaten by a group of teenagers in November 1997. (CBC)

Reena Virk's father Manjit said while each November since his daughter's death has been difficult for the family, it is comforting to know the community has kept her memory alive through awareness and anti-bullying initiatives.

"We don't want to make her immortal but on the other hand she has become a symbol there in the community and with young people there that they can always think about and reflect on what happened to her," said Manjit Virk.

"If you have issues there is help available there is a right channel they can deal with their issues rather than using the fist." 

Place based healing

Organizers of Tuesday's memorial said their choice to locate the memorial near where Virk died will help the community heal.

"I think this place holds the grief and the trauma of Reena's death," said Rachel Calder with the Artemis Place Society, an organization that runs education and counselling programs supporting young women, teen mothers, and trans youth.

"By holding the event here I'm hoping the community will write a new story that can layer on top of Reena's murder and have a new image in their mind when they drive over their bridge ... so hopefully it will provide an opportunity for place based healing." 

It's been 20 years since Reena Virk was beaten and drowned near the Craigflower bridge in Saanich, B.C. (Megan Thomas/CBC News)

With files from Megan Thomas