BY RATTAN MALL
 
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Photo 1: Maple Batalia
 
SURREY Councillor Barinder Rasode, who is a friend of the family of slain SFU student Maple Batalia, 19, told Asian Journal this week that the family are very grateful that the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has arrested and charged two young men in the September 28, 2011 murder. Maple was shot multiple times at 1:10 a.m. on the third level of the SFU Campus / Central City parkade at 13450 102 Avenue in Surrey. She was rushed to hospital but died soon after.
 
Maple’s former boyfriend, Gurjinder Dhaliwal, 20, of Surrey, is charged with first-degree murder. Gursimar Bedi, 22, of Surrey is charged with manslaughter using a firearm and accessory after the fact.
 
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Photo 2: Barinder Rasode Photo by Chandra Bodalia
 
Sgt. Jennifer Pound said the two men were arrested on Friday, November 30. She added: “Many of the details surrounding the evidence gathering will be withheld as we honor the court process.”
 
Just after her murder, Maple’s dad, Harkirat (Harry) Batalia, a retired heavy-duty mechanic, alleged that his daughter and the boyfriend split up after she came to know some negative things about him that she didn’t approve of, but he refused to let go of her. The former friend allegedly followed Maple and her mother in Holland Park just a few days before the murder.
 
Batalia told media that his daughter had been complaining about being stalked and harassed. One incident occurred at a Tim Horton’s when the former boyfriend allegedly pushed her and the management called the police.
 
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Photo 3: Gurjinder Dhaliwal
 
A warrant was issued for him just after Maple’s murder in connection with a September 24, 2011 incident at the Tim Hortons on King George Highway and 96th Avenue at 4:45 a.m. He turned himself in to Surrey RCMP and was released on bail. Those charges were later stayed.
 
Rasode told Asian Journal that Maple’s parents, Harkirat and Sarbjit, “certainly have been through a lot and I think that they have probably felt a sense of relief that at least somebody had been brought before the courts.
She added: “But the process going forward is going to be a long one too. It’s so senseless.”
 
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Photo 4: Roseleen Batalia RCMP photo
 
Rasode confirmed that the families of Maple and her former boyfriend knew each other.
She added: “The kids grew up together and the families knew each other, too.
 
Rasode said: “I think that for me as a mom, it’s a reminder of how much work we have to do both with our own children and as a society in terms of making sure that things like this don’t happen and that starts when children are young in terms of how they deal with anger, how they are able to maintain a control over emotions and we have somebody who’s accused of this murder and all the details will come out in the court case, but at this point from what we understand, it does seem that it is something that we all have to be concerned with because relationship abuse and domestic abuse, much as we would like to think it doesn’t exist, I think it’s still a very prevalent problem (in every community).
 
“It’s a problem with children, it’s a problem with seniors, it’s all across the board. I don’t think there’s any demographic or age group that’s free from it and I think that sometimes we treat strangers better than we treat our own family and I think that’s not okay.”
 
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Photo 5: (L-R) Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy, Officer-in-Charge of Surrey RCMP, Inspector Kevin Hackett, Officer-in-Charge of IHIT, IHIT Sgt. Jennifer Pound, and (seated) Maple Bhatia’s sister Roseleen, dad Harkirat and mom Sarbjit at Saturday’s press conference. RCMP photo
 
IHIT held a press conference on Saturday (December 1) after informing the media about the arrest by email earlier in the day. Maple’s parents and her sister Roseleen were also present.
 
Roseleen said that although their family couldn’t get Maple back, they were happy to see that those allegedly responsible for her death would suffer the consequences.
 
Calling it a very bittersweet day, she said the long wait was worth it. She said that this would help with the healing process as they could finally start to grieve.
 
Inspector Kevin Hackett, Officer-in-Charge of IHIT, said: “I know everyone here is familiar with the tragic and violent death of Maple Batalia. The events of the early morning hours of September 28, 2011 have left her family, friends and our entire community suffering with the loss of such a young and vibrant woman. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Batalia family as they continue to grieve.”
 
He then announced the name of the suspects who had been charged and arrested and added: “The details of this investigation are now with Crown Counsel and as the matter is before the courts, I cannot discuss specific evidence.”
 
He said: “The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team does not have the ability to undo this terrible loss. But we do have the responsibility and duty to meticulously investigate and gather the evidence required to bring those responsible before the courts to face justice.
 
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Photo 6: At the candlelight vigil for Maple Batalia at Surrey’s Holland Park in September 2011. Photo by Chandra Bodalia
 
“This homicide took place on the Surrey SFU campus, where our community’s youth develop into our future leaders. This had an impact on our community’s overall sense of security and safety.
 
“The investigation has remained a priority for IHIT and the RCMP since the day it took place. Every homicide is unique and presents its own challenges with respect to evidence collection and the time required to secure that evidence. Over the past 14 months, this investigation has drawn heavily upon the resources, expertise, and experience that IHIT has to offer. We have also relied on the support of our policing partners, so in addition to the hard work of our IHIT investigators I would like to specifically thank and acknowledge the assistance and support of the Surrey RCMP, and the RCMP’s E Division Major Crime Section.
 
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Photo 7: The Batalia family at the model search event in January. Photo by Chandra Bodalia
 
“IHIT has built a strong relationship with the Batalia family and, like all of our investigations, the relationship with the families is an essential one which helps motivate and focus our attention to finding justice for those who have been murdered.”
Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy, Officer-in-Charge of Surrey RCMP, said: “As the Officer-in-Charge here at Surrey Detachment, I always knew that this day would come – I know that to be true because I know that every day we commit to ensuring that justice and the rule of law prevails – that our citizens are safe, and that all of us are safe and secure.
 
“From the moment we received the first 911 call, the Surrey RCMP were fully engaged in investigating this horrendous crime. From our general duty officers first on the scene, to our dedicated Major Crime investigators working alongside the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, to our Victim Service caseworkers aiding the family, the Surrey RCMP was fully committed to seeing this matter brought to a successful conclusion. We are also here today because of the impressive commitment to duty by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. While there is still much work to be done, I am confident that justice will prevail and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.”
 
Assistant Commissioner Norm Lipinski, the Lower Mainland District Commander, said: “This senseless homicide of Maple Batalia, was a devastating incident that hit not only the community of Surrey but the entire Lower Mainland as it occurred at a public place that people use every day.
 
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Photo 8: Surveillance video showed a white Dodge Charger.
 
“Our Integrated Homicide Investigation Team works closely together with our communities, surrounding police forces and families in a seamless manner to bring justice for those who have died unfairly. This regional approach allows for better information sharing and investigative communication, effective rapid emergency response, and enhanced investigative continuity.
 
“The surge of IHIT resources from the moment this occurred and the maintained momentum of their actions allowed them to persevere through every aspect of this investigation until they got the answers they needed. This permitted them to move evidence forward for successful charge approvals. The cooperation from all those involved, including the Lower Mainland teams mentioned, contributed to this favorable outcome.”
 
INDEED, the two arrests have sent a very powerful message to all those who think they could possibly get away with such crimes.
IHIT deserves the community’s gratitude and respect for the way they handled this case.
 
On Monday, Dhaliwal made a brief appearance in Surrey Provincial Court. He just sat in the prisoner’s box and stared ahead. Bedi appeared by video at the same time. Both will appear in court again on December 17 by video.
The two men were ordered not to communicate with each other or the Batalia family.
 
Dhaliwal’s lawyer told the media outside the court that the matter was put over for a couple of weeks to help Bedi get a lawyer. He said there would be a bail hearing in the Supreme Court probably within the next month.
 
MAPLE actually studied at the Burnaby campus, and was at Surrey with friends, SFU spokesman Don MacLachlan told the media just after her murder. The Surrey SFU library was closed when the shooting occurred at about 1:10 a.m. that day. He said many students hang around campus studying throughout the night and there was no security concern as such.
In October 2011, IHIT released surveillance video of a white Dodge Charger believed to be the crime vehicle used by the suspects responsible for Maple’s murder.
 
Investigators said that through investigation they could say the Dodge Charger appeared to be the crime vehicle used in the homicide.
 
Maple was an aspiring actress and model. She had a role in the movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.” Maple, a graduate of Enver Creek Secondary in Surrey, was also a finalist in the Central City Shopping Centre model search. The model search finale was postponed out of respect for Maple’s family. It was finally held in January and Maple was honoured at the event by a musical tribute and a minute of silence.
 
Maple’s dad Harry, mom Sarbjit and sister Roseleen were then presented a $2,000 cheque for the bursary they set up in conjunction with Simon Fraser University where she was a student.
 
Maple, one of Batalia’s three kids, was studying to become a doctor. She was named Maple because her father was fascinated with the changing colours of the leaves in autumn during a visit to the U.S. and she was born shortly after that. The family later immigrated to Canada.
 
Just in time for what would have been Maple Batalia’s 20th birthday (March 4), the Batalia family achieved its $50,000 fundraising goal for the Maple Batalia Memorial Fund to benefit Simon Fraser University students.
 
Batalia’s family established the bursary fund just before the Christmas holidays with an initial gift of $10,000. Their goal was to grow this endowment to $50,000 to help women in the future achieve their educational goals. Since then, family, friends and community members all came together to contribute.
 
The fund will be used to support SFU students in the faculty of health sciences, where Batalia was a student. It is the first bursary fund established at SFU to specifically support students in this new faculty.
 
PROGRESSIVE Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society in a statement said: “The murder of Batalia has brought forth important issues of violence against women to the forefront. We have lost another member of the community in a senseless act of violence highlighting that preventative measures need to be implemented.
 
“I know the Batalia family personally and have witnessed how much this tragedy has affected their lives. The recent charges [against] the two men is a crucial first step to find and punish those responsible for Maple’s murder. The family has suffered enough and deserves closure once and for all,” said Rina Gill, community activist and PICS Society’s Women Committee Chair.
PICS said they have made strong efforts focusing on ending violence against women and will continue with these initiatives.
 
“Several organizations including PICS Society have great programs that empower youth and teach them to make right decisions. Our community should make avail of these programs to guide our future generations,” said Devinder Chattha, Director of Social Programs at PICS Society.
 
“The murder of Maple Batalia is a senseless act of violence against women,” said Amman Barmi, Program Manager of Harmony House. “The charges [against] the men [allegedly] involved in Maple’s murder will send a strong message to the community that there is justice for victims of crime, and that this act will not go unpunished. Having the perpetrators brought to justice will hopefully allow Maple’s family and the community to begin healing, and put this matter to peace.”
 
PICS CEO Charan Gill said: “I am saddened to say that we, as a community, are not doing enough. … While there are services that provide help and safety for women and girls, there must be preventative measures implemented so that we don’t have to lose another precious life.
 
“We must teach these young generations that the lives of these women are valuable just as [are those of] their own mothers, sisters and loved ones are.”