Sri Lankan community in Toronto in shock as van attack claims life of single mother

Renuka Amarasingha was among the victims of the Toronto van attack last week. On Wednesday morning, the Toronto District School Board identified Amarasingha as being among the dead.

On the day of the attack she had just completed her first day of work at Earl Haig Secondary School, located near the crime scene, the board said.

John Molloy, director of education, said Amarasingha was a former TDSB adult student who had worked as a nutrition services staff member at a number of schools since 2015. She was also a single mother to a young son, for whom the board says the community has launched a fundraising account.

“It is with heavy hearts that we are learning of the death of a TDSB staff member whose life was tragically cut short,” wrote Molloy in a statement.

Rangika Karunathilake, a friend of Amarasingha, said on Wednesday that she is trying to come to terms with her death.

“She is like a sister to me. I have known her almost 13 years. The last two years she was very close to me,” Karunathilake told CBC Toronto.

“This is an unthinkable tragedy. She didn’t deserve to die. How come these things can happen? They shouldn’t die on the street. Like animals. I don’t even know if animals are dying like this.”

Ahangama Rathanasiri of the Toronto Maha Vihara Buddhist Meditation Centre described Amarasingha as ‘kind’ and ‘helpful to society’.

Rathanasiri said Amarasingha’s friends first became alarmed when she did not return home on Monday afternoon to look after her son as usual.

“Normally she goes to the school to pick the child. At that time on that day she didn’t go to the school, so we knew definitely that she died.”

“She was happy to come to the temple. Whenever she got any kind of bad feelings in her mind, she comes to the temple and gets blessings. I remember that when she was pregnant, her husband left her. At that time, she had difficulties so I talked to her and then gave her advice. There are many people in the world, that kind of people, who face many problems, and try to be courageous. Then she was happy, anyhow. With difficulties, she raised the child. Now the child is seven-years-old. The last time I saw her [was] on the 22nd. This incident happened on the 23rd. I saw her [then] because we had the celebration here, New Year’s celebration – that is Sri Lankan New Year. So we wanted to show the values of the New Year’s celebration to the students at our Sunday school. Nearly 200 students are studying at our Sunday school. This boy is one of them. Renuka had brought the child to that celebration,” Ahangama Rathanasiri said.

A GoFundMe fundraising page under the name ‘Help Diyon have a bright future’ has already raised over $200,000.

The Lous Youth Council said it is committed to setting up a trust fund for Diyon once the legal formalities are completed.

Currently, Renuka and Diyon’s lawyer is working on obtaining Renuka’s death certificate for this purpose. Diyon is residing with a friend of Renuka’s currently, and the Toronto Mahavihara is in contact with them at all times.

The Lous Youth Council is affiliated to the Toronto Mahavihara which is a registered charity under Revenue Canada for over 20 years. The Lotus Youth Council is working with Renuka’s lawyer and the Toronto Mahvihara temple to ensure all this money is put to the use of Diyon’s future.

The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto declined to comment on Amarasingha’s case, but said the agency gets involved at times when it is suspected or confirmed that a child has no functioning legal guardian. People who report to the CAS may not know if there is a guardian and case workers will follow up to make sure.

“CAS doesn’t have a role where there is a capable caregiver and the deceased’s wishes are known regarding a plan for their child,” its CEO David Rivard told the Star. “In general, when there is a tragedy of this scale, we count ourselves among a broader community that can offer support.”

(The Star / CBC Toronto)

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