As the first notes of “Amazing Grace” rang out, only a stone’s throw away from where his younger brother was killed, Milos Gordic couldn’t help but cry.
Family and friends joined him in mourning the loss of Luka Gordic on Saturday, June 20 at a vigil for the Burnaby man who police say was fatally stabbed while visiting Whistler for the Victoria Day weekend last month.
“It’s very hard for us to be here, as Luka was taken away from us here in Whistler,” read a message from Gordic’s sister, Danica.
Dozens came to pay tribute in Rebagliati Park, all clad in black T-shirts emblazoned with “5/17/15” across the back to mark the day the teenager was killed. Candles were lit in his memory and 19 white balloons — one for each year of his life — were released in his honour.
But Saturday was about more than just remembrance; it was also a call to action.
“Together we can reach out and create change in our country,” said a tearful Gianni Buono, Gordic’s uncle. “It’s (the family’s) hope that we can positively influence our community, change our laws and ensure the safety and protection of all people so that what happened in Whistler to Luka does not happen again.”
Since Gordic’s death, his family has been vocal in criticizing a Canadian justice system they feel is too soft on violent crime. They’ve called for the four teens accused in Gordic’s death to have their charges upgraded from manslaughter to murder. They’re also pushing for the three suspects who are under the age of 18 to be tried as adults.
An online petition calling for the changes has so far amassed over 25,000 signatures.
A fourth suspect, 18-year-old Arvin Golic, was released on bail last week. Two of the other suspects have also been released, while a third remains in custody after his bail was denied last month.
Gordic’s parents were too distraught to make the trip to Whistler, but his mother Clara made sure those in attendance understood the anguish her family has suffered in a heartfelt written message decrying the "senseless act of violence.
“Waking each day brings new waves of grief, and we cannot describe how badly losing Luka has broken our family’s hearts,” she wrote. “We now pray for Luka’s soul and pray for justice so that no family should ever have to endure the pain and brokenness we now feel.”
Gordic’s was the first of two stabbings to hit Whistler on the May long weekend, a holiday that has been clouded by unruly behaviour in the resort community for years.
A 17-year-old Vancouver man was arrested Tuesday, June 16, in connection with the non-fatal stabbing. He faces a charge of aggravated assault.
The municipal May Long Weekend Task Force is expected to meet this month to discuss this year's violence-plagued holiday and consider strategies for 2016.