THE Lekhi family of Summerland was still in shock when The VOICE contacted them by phone on Wednesday after their house was sprayed-painted with racist and obscene graffiti and two of their windows smashed on Monday night.
Summerland lies on the west side of Okanagan Lake. Kelowna is about 50 km to the north, and Vancouver is about 425 km away to the west.
Ramesh Lekhi and his wife Kiran were home when two windows at their home were smashed with rocks on July 13 at 10:30 p.m. They called the RCMP and police arrived to find that the home had also been spray-painted with racist and obscene imagery.
Later, similar graffiti was discovered at the bandshell in Memorial Park, but no other house in the town had been vandalized. Summerland RCMP have launched a criminal investigation into both incidents as suspected hate crimes.
The Lekhi’s three adult children – two sons and a daughter – who were all in Vancouver, left for Summerland around 4 a.m. on Tuesday to be with their parents.
The Lekhi’s daughter, Shivali, a respiratory therapist at BC Children’s Hospital, told The VOICE on Wednesday: “It was still such a big shock coming up our driveway and seeing that [graffiti that had been spray-painted on their house].”
She said that her parents “are obviously scared and shaken a little bit,” adding, “I think my dad is still a little bit in disbelief that a community and a place that he’s called home for a majority of his whole life – because he came here when he was so young – that this could ever happen. My mum is scared as well because their door is always unlocked, they roam around the house, it’s never been a security issue.”
She said that the police investigation is still ongoing, adding: “I know that the police are doing their job and calling around and looking around and speaking to people.”
The Lekhis have seen an outpouring of sympathy and support from the community that is also shocked that something like this could have occurred there.
Shivali said: “We’ve been kind of so, so lucky that so many community members have been coming up our driveway seeing this and they are obviously just as shocked as we are. Some people in the community have just come up and said ‘we heard about this on the news. How can we help? how can we help take this off?”
The Lekhis built their house in 1990 in front of their cherry orchard. Ramesh Lekhi told the media that he had lived in Canada for 42 years and had never experienced anything like this.
Summerland Mayor Toni Boot and some councillors have visited the Lekhis to offer support.