VICTORIA — Suman Virk, a grieving mother who "pioneered'' the conversation about bullying after her daughter was murdered, has died in Victoria.
Virk was 58 years old.
She was the mother of 14-year-old Reena Virk, whose death more than two decades ago made international headlines about youth bullying.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan offered his condolences on Twitter.
"Suman's tireless work to end bullying has helped make life better for countless kids in B.C. Our hearts are with Manjit Virk and the entire Virk family at this difficult time,'' Horgan tweeted.
Just learned the news of the tragic and sudden passing of Suman Virk, mother of the late Reena Virk. Suman's tireless work to end bullying has helped make life better for countless kids in BC. Our hearts are with Manjit Virk and the entire Virk family at this difficult time.— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) June 18, 2018
B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said Virk and her husband, Manjit, selflessly raised awareness about bullying issues after the death of their daughter.
"Reena's tragic death would have understandably led most people to be sorrowful and intensely private for the remainder of their lives,'' he said in an interview. "In Suman's case, she and her husband instead pioneered a discussion about the potentially deadly consequences of bullying in our school system, and literally talked to tens of thousands of kids, educators, administrators and law enforcement officials about how we can learn to treat one another with respect and kindness.''
Fleming, who said he has come to know the Virk family over the years as their member of the legislature in the Victoria-Swan Lake riding, said Suman Virk chose to speak publicly about teaching and practising acceptance as the path to prevent violence among young people.
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"She lived her life after her daughter's death in a very powerful way, with compassion and conviction about making life better for kids who would otherwise be vulnerable,'' said Fleming.
The B.C. Coroners Services said it is in the early stages of an investigation into a death in Victoria of a female in her late 50s, but did not confirm her identity due to privacy reasons. The service said the woman was injured on Thursday and died on Saturday.
Reena Virk was swarmed and beaten by a group of teenage girls and later attacked and drowned by two other teens in November of 1997.
Virk's death made worldwide headlines after it was reported she was the victim of a swarming attack when she was invited to meet with other teens under a bridge to hang out. The attack started when one of the girls extinguished a lit cigarette on her forehead and ended with her death in shallow water near the bridge.
Six girls were convicted of assault causing bodily harm and sentenced to up to one year in custody.
Teens charged with murder
Warren Glowatski and Kelly Ellard were convicted of second-degree murder after the teenagers followed the limping girl away from the fight and beat and drowned her in the nearby Gorge waterway.
Glowatski was granted full parole in 2010 and Ellard received conditional day parole last year.
Suman Virk, who attended Glowatski's parole hearings, said she forgave him after he expressed remorse for the death and explained how he changed his life during the prison term.
Last November, about 200 people gathered outside a historic school that overlooks the beach near where the teen was killed to mark the 20-year anniversary of her death.
Suman Virk did not attend, but her husband spoke publicly and said the ceremony was "therapeutic.''
Fleming, who spoke at the ceremony, called Reena Virk's death a national tragedy.
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