Friends who gathered for a memorial service on Friday afternoon remembered Shaminder Brar as a beautiful, intelligent woman with a great sense of humor and a big smile, but who was failed by the mental-health system.
“There is no reason for her death – other than the system failed her,” said Pastor Ward Draper of the 5 and 2 Ministries.
Brar, the victim of a fatal hit-and-run on Riverside Road in Abbotsford, was memorialized during an informal service at the Warm Zone drop-in centre for street-entrenched women.
Brar, 34, suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and was a frequent visitor to the facility.
Her boyfriend, Gary Goulet, said that if Brar had received the support she needed, she wouldn’t have frequently wandered the streets.
Brar left the home in which she and Goulet rented a room on Sunday, Feb. 10. He reported her missing two days later, and her body was found on Monday, Feb. 18.
Police said she was the victim of an apparent hit-and-run sometime between 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16 and the early-morning hours of Feb. 18.
“It’s puzzling what happened. I loved that girl so much. I wish she was here,” Goulet said, sobbing. “I wanted to keep her from the streets, not have the streets take her.”
Several spoke of trying to find support for Brar. Goulet said whenever Brar was admitted to the hospital, it wouldn’t take long for her to be kicked out because of the extreme behavior she exhibited.
But she needed the help, he said.
“She is definitely a casualty of the system,” Goulet said.
Michele Giordano, coordinator of the Warm Zone, also expressed concerns about the lack of suitable treatment facilities for Brar and people in similar situations.
She said Brar should have been admitted to a secure facility.
Brar was loved by all who met her at the Warm Zone for her kind, sensitive nature, Giordano said.
She recalled that when the facility moved to its current location on McCallum Road, it took Brar about three years to get up enough courage to come inside the facility.
“Once she did, then we saw that Sham … (who) once in awhile would have incredibly intelligent things to say … We worried about her terribly. We worried because we knew she was the most vulnerable, but she had a place that she could come in, in the end.”
Goulet played two of Brar’s favourite Beatles’ songs at the service: In My Life and Julia.
A formal traditional service was held for Brar, whose grew up in Abbotsford and still has family here, last Sunday at Henderson’s Funeral Home.