April 18th, 2024

Grief, pleas for compassion at funeral for Sri Lankan family slain in Ottawa

By Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press on March 17, 2024.

Flowers sit at the scene of a homicide where six people were found dead in the Barrhaven suburb of Ottawa on Thursday, March 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – More than a hundred mourners offered tearful prayers and calls for solidarity and compassion on Sunday at the funeral for a Sri Lankan family slain in one of the worst mass killing’s in Ottawa’s history.

Dozens gathered at the Infinity Convention Centre for a multi-faith service to remember the six people, including four children, who were found dead on March 6 inside a townhouse in Ottawa’s south-end Barrhaven suburb.

Ajahn Viradhammo, a monk who spoke at the funeral, asked those grieving around the world to focus on supporting each other instead of leaning into despair or anger.

“We in the Ottawa area are in the eye of this storm, but we recognize that its impact is felt all over the world,” he said.

“It is in these dark moments that we must derive strength from compassion and wisdom that lie at the heart of faith. We come together bound by our shared humanity and our unwavering commitment to compassion.”

The victims included 35-year-old Darshani Ekanayake and her four children, who ranged in age from two months to seven years old, as well as a family friend.

Her husband and the kids’ father, Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, was taken to hospital with injuries to his hands and face.

Wickramasinghe was seen crying at the ceremony, his hands clasped in prayer with one finger bandaged. He was surrounded by family members, including a man sobbing into a handkerchief.

Funeral organizers said on Friday that he has requested privacy to mourn the loss of his family, but is thankful for the outpouring of public support since his relatives died.

Five coffins sat at the front of the room, including three smaller white ones and two larger wooden caskets, one of which had framed photos of both Ekanayake and her baby.

The ceremony included audio recordings from the wife and daughter of Gamini Amarakoon Amarakoon Mudiyanselage, a family friend who was also killed. His loved ones in Sri Lanka were unable to travel to Canada for the suneral.

The service included a Buddhist ritual as well as reflections from preachers from various religions, who prayed for surviving relatives to have strength.

Dignitaries from multiple levels of government urged unity in comments during and after the funeral.

“We have to continue to put our arms around these two families,” Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe told reporters. “They will have so many difficult days ahead of them and so many challenges.”

The Wickramasinghe family members were Sri Lankan newcomers to Canada, and the youngest was born in this country.

Police arrested a 19-year-old Sri Lankan man on the evening of the attack and charged him with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Police said Febrio De-Zoysa was an international student who had been living with the family at the time of their deaths.

De-Zoysa’s lawyer, Ewan Lyttle, said his client is being held in protective custody and his family is “obviously very upset” about the allegations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2024.

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