Reena Virk: 12 Years Later and No Sign of Justice for Hate Crime

Reena VirkFriday, June 12, 2009 marks the “conclusion” of the fourth trial for the murder of South Asian youth, Reena Virk. Reena was fourteen years old when she was killed in 1997 by a gang of white youth in Victoria, British Columbia. Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski are the only members of the entire group of teens tried over the past twelve years in relation to Virk’s murder that were successfully convicted of second-degree murder. Found in combination with the final drowning of the girl’s body were several other potentially fatal injuries inflicted by the group, including attempts to set the girl’s hair on fire.

What makes this a hate-crime?

It is the targeting of Reena’s South Asianness in how her murder’s tortured her that makes it so. Yet, the media repeatedly casted the reason Virk was targeted as the fact she was an outcast, “dark-skinned”, a little overweight, just wanting to fit in. “The implicit message was that had she been white and had she been thin, she would have fit in, and there would have been no reason for her to be killed,” as anti-racist scholar Yasmin Jiwani highlights.

Not surprisingly, that Virk was South Asian is rarely mentioned in related media. While Ellard and Glowatski had allegedly made fun of Reena’s “hairy back” and burned a cigarette into her forehead where a South Asian woman may wear a bindi, racism was not even examined as a motivating factor for the violence. As a side note, at one point in one of the various attempts to bring justice over the four trials, it surfaced that Glowatski joked and prided himself when explaining the blood on his shirt to a witness as evidence he had killed a Native man.

After several appeals, it has taken four trials to date to convict Ellard of second-degree murder. In 2003, she served 18 months of a life sentence before she was let out on bail. She ended up on trial again when she was charged with assault causing bodily harm of a 58-year-old woman. The woman’s race is never mentioned in media reports of the crime.

August 3, 2006 marks the third time Ellard was convicted in relation to Reena. The fourth and latest decision by Canada’s Supreme Court comes after Ellard’s third conviction was overturned in 2008 by the B.C. Court of Appeal. Friday’s conviction again misses to cite the murder as a hate-crime and instead recognizes Ellard as guilty only of second-degree murder.

Man, what’s a sweet, thin, white girl gotta do to be put away for good these days?

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About Mitsuru

Mitsuru spends his time worrying about writing, worrying about cooking, and admiring cats in his neighbourhood. Mostly, Mitsuru is mysterious and not in that racist Asian-small-eyes-stereotype way, but because he has no last name. He is a Japanese-Canadian Toronto-based writer with aspirations to some day be a poet.
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