Friends, family, and members of the community gathered at a candlelight vigil in Brampton for 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar, whose body was found at a home last Thursday following an Amber Alert. The girl’s father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, faces a first-degree murder charge.
Members of City council in Brampton, Ont., organized the vigil, which was held at Garden Square in downtown Brampton Tuesday evening, and was open to all members of the public.
The evening began with two songs of prayer dedicated to Riya as members of the crowd remained quiet.
Poems, speeches, and songs were presented, as the sky darkened and light from hundreds of candles illuminated the area.
After thanking the city for the event, interim Peel Regional Police Chief Chris McCord read out a statement written by Riya’s mother.
“Today, I wish to tell the story of my baby girl, my best friend, my everything,” the statement reads.
“She touched a lot of lives with her laughter and her contagious big smile. It breaks my heart I will no longer be seeing that smile, hearing her voice – I will never have her in my arms again. I can’t believe she is no longer here with me.”
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown was out of the country Tuesday but recorded a video that was played at the vigil. In his speech, the mayor thanked police for their service.
His wife, Genevieve Gualtieri, stood on the stage in his place.
“Brampton will always remember Riya,” she said. “As an expecting mother myself, I am still in shock.”
Priya Ramdin said in the statement that her daughter always looked at the positives in life.
She described Riya as her “best friend, my everything.”
“If I’m ever upset, she would say, ‘Mama, don’t be sad. Look at the positives.’”
Ramdin said Riya was a dreamer and wanted to become a doctor, drive a Lamborghini and own a mansion. She noted how her daughter loved Drake and to play card games.
“She was a little princess who loved dressing up, having her hair curled and done up. She was a social butterfly who loved to spend time with family and friends. She was a great dancer and singer,” Ramdin wrote.
“Riya was always a happy and positive child. She loved life and was always excited about everything life had to offer. She never liked to be negative,” Ramdin wrote.
In her statement Tuesday evening, Ramdin recalled her last moments with her daughter.
“Early during that day, we went to do our nails and her choice of colour was red. She was so excited for her birthday, looking forward to having dinner later that evening,” she wrote.
“Never did I think that my daughter would not return back to me.”
Ramdin thanked emergency services crews for their work as well as family, friends, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Patrick Brown’s office for their support.
Gualtieri said the clock tower in the square will be lit up in pink Tuesday night in Riya’s honour.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie also attended the event which she said was “a first step in the healing process.”
“I want [the family] to know they are not alone,” she said. “Know that Riya is now resting peacefully among the angels in heaven.”
Crombie said this tragedy should serve as a stark reminder that, as a society, we must “do better” to protect women and young girls.