EDMONTON — The sound of a Sikh prayer echoed across an Edmonton high school field Friday night as loved ones of a 16-year-old boy who died after an attack returned to the place he was stabbed to perform a cleansing ceremony.
Monica Binns said a prayer recited by a leader from a Sikh temple during the ceremony would help Karanveer Sahota’s family cleanse their memory of the McNally High School field as the place where her cousin was attacked while waiting for a bus on April 8.
“Instead we want it to be remembered as a place where those that loved him and were touched by him gathered to love, honor and pay respects for his last moments on earth,” Binns said as she wept and described the ceremony called ‘Ardas’.
“Look, Karan. Look how many people love you and are touched by you. We’re all here because your impact on us has brought us all together,” she said.
Police charged six boys and one girl between the ages of 14 and 17 with second-degree murder soon after Sahota died in hospital a week after the attack.
All seven are out on bail and are to appear in court in May.
Police Supt. Shane Perka has said the youths had a history of disagreeing with each other, but there are no indications the assault on Sahota was gang-related.
On Friday, some students wept, while some family members and friends of Sahota’s stood silently around a tree adjacent to the bus stop where he was attacked. Community members placed flowers and candles around a photo of Sahota that leaned against a tree.
A sign outside the high school for Sahota quoted Toni Morrison: “Something that is loved is never lost.”
Before the cleansing ceremony, several of Sahota’s cousins and friends gave speeches about how intelligent, mature and thoughtful he was.
They said he loved listening to and producing music. He was also a good cook, an even better basketball player, and cared deeply for his mother, father and 13-year-old sister.
“The name Karanveer translates to brave warrior in Punjabi,” said Sahota’s cousin, Shivleen Sidhu.
“That’s exactly what our Karanveer was. Brave and strong. He was a true fighter until the end.”
Sidhu said that while Sahota fought for his life in hospital for a week, family members from across the world came together to send him off to heaven.
“Karanveer has taught us many lessons in his short life but the most important lesson that he has taught us is to cherish all of the times that we have with our family and loved ones because in the blink of an eye, our life can change forever,” she said.
The Edmonton Police Service said in a statement Thursday that it understands Sahota’s death continues to weigh heavily on many students, families and the community, and warned about misinformation circulating about the assault.
“Unfortunately, the EPS has received reports about members of the public publishing the names of accused and witnesses on the internet that they believe are involved in the McNally High School homicide investigation/prosecution,” police spokeswoman Cheryl Sheppard said in the statement.
“While we recognize that this continues to be a difficult time, the EPS must point out that publishing the identity of any accused and witnesses in such matters is a criminal offence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act,” she said.
“We ask that anyone who has published identifying material of this nature to delete/remove it immediately.”
A GoFundMe for Sahota’s family has raised more than $255,000.
A petition calling for the accused to be sentenced, if convicted, as adults has been circulating on multiple online community groups and has attracted more than 11,000 signatures.