Tears, laughter and moments of anger were shared among friends and advocates at a memorial service for Shaminder Brar in Abbotsford Friday afternoon following her death in a recent hit-and-run.
Brar, 34, was found sprawled in a ditch along Riverside Road on Feb. 18 after being reported missing six days earlier to Abbotsford Police.
Those who knew Brar spoke of her beautiful smile, crazy laugh and flashes of intelligence during the event held at the Warm Zone, a centre serving at-risk women.
But they also expressed outrage over the death of someone they felt was a casualty of the health care system.
Brar, who'd been living on and off the streets for years, struggled with a drug addiction and suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Street pastor Ward Draper of the 5 and 2 Ministries said Brar fell through the gaps of a system that cannot deal with people who are dealing simultaneously with mental health and substance abuse issues.
"There was no reason for her death other than we failed her," said Draper.
"Our system failed her . . . us pushing the system to get corrected failed her.
"We have to find a way to solidify and work harder to protect the most vulnerable that we have and love in our communities."
Service providers spoke of how difficult it was to get Brar the medical help or addictions treatment she needed due to her mental health issues and visa versa.
"We grieve together as a community and have watched one of our own fall due to not getting the help she needed," said Warm Zone coordinator Michele Giordano.
Brar's boyfriend, Gary Goulet recalled the young woman attempting to get clean, but being sabotaged by her own mental disorders.
"It was an up hill battle. She was in treatment but then her bipolar kicks and she couldn't follow the rules," he said, breaking down in tears.
"I wanted to keep her from the streets and the streets took her."
- Abbotsford Police are still searching for information on Brar's death. Investigators believe she was struck along Riverside Road south of King Road sometime between 8 p.m. on Feb. 16 and the early morning of Feb. 18. She was wearing a pink hoodie, blue jeans and white runners when she died. Anyone who had contact with Brar after she was reported missing or who spotted her in the Riverside Road area is asked to call the Abbotsford Police at 604-859-5225.