Manjit and Suman Virk: Where Are Reena Virk’s Parents Now?

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Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’ follows the horrifying true story of 14-year-old Reena Virk’s murder in the town of Saanich. The show covers the story from different angles: from the flashbacks of Reena’s life months before the murder to the investigation that uncovers disturbing truths about what really happened to her. A part of the story is dedicated to her parents, Manjit and Suman Virk, who have to live through their worst nightmare when they discover that their daughter has been killed. What would have broken some people pushed the Virks to do something about the ills of the society that led to Reena’s death.

Manjit Virk Continues the Good Work After His Wife’s Death

Reena Virk’s father, Manjit Virk, lives in Victoria and has dedicated his life to advocating anti-bullying and anti-violence. His wife, Suman Virk, was also committed to the cause. Tragically, she died on June 16, 2018. Reportedly, she had a choking incident while eating in a cafe on June 14, due to which her airway was blocked for several minutes, leading to irreparable brain damage, which eventually led to her death “despite intensive medical intervention.” She was 58 years old. She is laid to rest in Royal Oak Burial Park Cemetery in Victoria.

Image Credit: The Canadian Press/Youtube

Born in 1955 in Punjab, India, Manjit Virk immigrated to Victoria in 1979. He has a Master’s in English literature and worked for a Victoria-based manufacturer for over two decades. However, after the death of his daughter, he was too traumatized to keep working full-time and eventually gave up the job. After this, he worked as a freelance interpreter and translator of Hindi and Punjabi. Talking about his own childhood in Punjab, he revealed that he, too, had been subject to bullying as a kid but “lived with it” because he “believed that’s just how it was, that bigger boys just do that kind of thing.” It was after his eldest child, Reena, suffered the fatal blow of bullying from her friends and classmates that he saw the true extent of damage, not just physical but also psychological, such acts inflict on people.

Manjit married Suman in June 1979. She was born in Victoria and was one of five children. A graduate of Victoria High School, she was employed as a keypunch operator when she met Manjit. Apart from Reena, they had two more children, a son named Aman and a daughter named Simren. The couple also raised the two children of Manjit’s younger sister, Harjit, who was stabbed to death two years after Reena’s murder by her husband, Narinder, who was convicted of second-degree murder.

While processing the trauma of their daughter’s death, which Manjit Virk wrote about extensively in his 2008 book ‘Reena: A Father’s Story,’ the couple decided that they could not let Reena’s death be in vain. According to Suman, the feeling to do something about it on the ground level “came about gradually” as it became evident to her that they needed “to help the public become aware of the very real problem of teen violence.” She didn’t want Reena to end up as just another crime statistic and decided to channel their pain into something that could help her other children be saved from a similar fate, but more importantly, from inflicting the same on someone else’s child.

This started the Virks’ decades-long campaign, focusing on anti-bullying and anti-violence. They traveled the country, speaking in high schools via Pink Shirt Day while also campaigning for the government to create policies to battle these vices. They helped develop programs in the school system while also helping bring about a change on the provincial and federal levels to combat the problem. They were also contacted by policymakers to help shape reformative policies. In 2011, Suman Virk was invited by the government to speak in favor of youth justice provisions in the omnibus crime bill, C-10, parts of which she supported. She and her husband also laid emphasis on the importance of mental health counseling for teenagers.

Manjit Virk was also connected with the spring youth camp on Thetis Island sponsored by Youth for Change and Inclusion and often spoke at the annual program initiated by the Victoria Police Department. On the 20-year anniversary of Reena’s death, an event was held at Kosapsom Park, organized by Artemis Place Society and Learning Through Loss, where Manjit Virk spoke about how there was still a long way to go in making the world a safer space for kids and how parents had to play an active role in stopping their children from committing violence. For their contribution to the cause, the Virks were awarded the provincial Anthony J. Hulme Award of Distinction in 2009.

The Virks also showed an extraordinary sense of courage in forgiving the people responsible for their daughter’s death. Suman Virk stated that forgiveness was the only thing to do because if they didn’t forgive the other children, they wouldn’t be any different from the bullies who had no compassion for Reena. Warren Glowatski, who received a life sentence for second-degree murder, met with the Virks as a part of the restorative justice process and apologized to them, receiving their forgiveness in return.

To this, Suman Virk said that the reason they did it was to “just put this whole matter aside and for our own healing and sense of wholeness.” At the same time, she also expressed disapproval over Kelly Ellard receiving day parole because she hadn’t accepted her responsibility in the matter. In her final year, Suman Virk had taken to focusing on herself and her faith, spending her time in peace and quiet, sometimes even traveling. Following her passing, her husband continues to advocate for the cause.

Read More: Where Are Simren and Aman Virk Now?