April 05, 2013 - 1:18 PM
By Charlotte Helston
Seventeen years ago today, Canada's second largest mass murder unfolded in Vernon.
April 5, 1996 was supposed to be a happy day—the Gakhal and Saran families were preparing for a wedding. Sadly, the day has come to be remembered as a tragic bloodbath.
The guman, Mark Chahal, shot nine members of the families after his wife, Rajwar Gakhal left him, fed up with their marriage.
Instead of shying away from the painful memories, the surviving family members want to use the story to tell the world about domestic violence.
As in years past, a memorial will be held today at 6 p.m. A candlelight vigil will commemorate the dead and raise awareness about violence against women.
Brooke McLardy of the Vernon Women's Transition House, says there's usually a showing of around 80 people.
"The family really stresses that it's not just about what happened, it's about raising awareness on domestic violence," McLardy says.
"There was a murder-suicide here recently, and that's another example of domestic violence," McLardy says, referring to the murder-suicide in Vernon's BX neighbourhood last month.
She says tragedies like the Gakhal/Saran massacres have made Vernon the supportive community it is today.
"There was an amazing response in Vernon to the Gakhal murder, we have a great collaborative practice here with other agencies to support victims," McLardy says.
The memorial will be held outside the former Vernon library (by the Museum) and will feature speeches by MLA Eric Foster, city councillor Patrick Nicol, and members of the RCMP.
Surviving family members will be in attendance, and the public is welcomed to meet them.
Refreshments will be provided.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013