A man described as well respected in his community is now facing a second-degree murder charge after his severely injured wife was taken off life support on Sunday.
Baldev Singh Kalsi, a highly regarded member of Surrey’s Sikh community and former president of the Gurdwara Sahib Brookside temple – until the charges against him – is still in custody.
The 66-year-old was arrested just over a week ago at a home in South Surrey, where police found his wife, Narinder Kaur Kalsi, in severe medical distress. She was airlifted to hospital and placed on life support. (In an unexpected turn of events, the accused was himself hospitalized with facial injuries after being attacked, allegedly by another inmate, at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre, but police say the assault appears unconnected to the original incident).
For those who have only received the bare facts from news reports, questions surely abound about the death of a woman remembered as a kindly mother and grandmother. As a society, we grapple for understanding, not simply out of human curiosity, but also a desire to learn.
The new president of the temple subsequently issued a statement condemning “all kinds of violence.” The World Sikh Organization of Canada has offered counselling, saying that violence against women is an issue the South Asian community, including Sikhs, must address.
Was this, we must ask, an incident that could have been anticipated, perhaps prevented? Were there warning signals that matters would come to such a pass?
What is not in question is that these bare facts represent a tragedy that must have a deep impact, not only on the family, but all those who knew the couple and on the broader community.
Tragedies of this nature emphasize the contradictory nature of life; the sense that appearances are deceptive, and that unknown undercurrents run below what we accept as a placid surface of normality. There are details of the lives of each of us that are, and should remain, private – but dire circumstances sometimes force some of them into the spotlight, as a matter of necessity.
Yet, without key information, none of us should rush to judge each other, or create a pat summary for the evident contradictions and complexities.
Judgment, in this case, is now in the hands of the criminal justice system – and we can only hope that justice, though rarely swift, is ultimately served.