Luka Gordic and his family had planned to travel from their home in Burnaby to take part in Tough Mudder Whistler this weekend under the team name Family Matters.
But following the 19-year-old’s stabbing death in the Village on May 17, plans have changed. Instead, the family will use their trip to the resort as a way to further their campaign #JusticeForLuka and hold a vigil in the town where he was killed.
“Following the tragedy, we’re going through the grieving process and the family considered how we could go forward with our lives,” said Gordic’s uncle Gianni Buono. “Early on we decided that we needed to come together as best we can given the circumstances and take on a certain responsibility to make change. We do not want a senseless tragedy to happen again to other people.”
The family, including Gordic’s two brothers, sister and their significant others, will take on the Tough Mudder course as team #JusticeForLuka to raise awareness of their campaign. Their aim is to have the three 17-year-old men charged with manslaughter in his death tried as adults, as well as upgrade all four suspects’ charges — including 18-year-old Arvin Golic — to murder.
A petition calling for these changes has collected over 24,000 signatures.
“We’re going to continue to work towards creating that awareness and try to make change at a variety of different levels,” Buono said.
The family also wants to see Whistler do more to ensure the safety of visitors on the notoriously violent May long weekend. They plan to hold a vigil in Rebagliati Park on Saturday (June 20) from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. They will be handing out wristbands and t-shirts with #JusticeForLuka emblazoned on them an hour before the gathering. (The capacity of the area is around 500 people.)
Gordic’s siblings and parents will say a few words and singer Frankie Cena will also share a song, Buono said. “We had (a vigil) in the Lower Mainland at Spanish Banks and we had 2,300 people. We suspect we won’t have all the people we had in Vancouver, however, it’s important for our family to recognize the location of where it happened and also try and create some closure for our family. It’s been very, very difficult for us to deal with. It’s something we’ll likely never get over. It’s just a matter of us trying to live with what’s happened the best we can,” he said.
In the meantime, the family is also advocating for Whistler to take serious steps in making sure the May long weekend never claims another life. The town needs to consider drastic measures like surveillance cameras, curfews and searching for weapons and alcohol, Buono said.
“It’s not like people didn’t know what was going on that weekend,” he said. “It’s been going on for years. What does it take for change to occur? And now people have to stand up. I would say, to a certain extent, we ourselves did not fully understand what was going on. The people of Whistler knew what was going on. How can you not know? It’s been going on for years. There’s a lot of different methods that can be put into place to prevent this from happening. We need to be preventative. You’re not going to stop it all, but you need to take stronger measures.”
On top of that, he and his family hope that anyone who witnessed the violence that led to Gordic’s death will come forward. “We will be working towards changing some laws and also try to raise these charges to the highest (level) so these individuals are accountable for what happened,” Buono said. “But in order for that to happen we need people to come forward. If they haven’t spoken to police, if they saw anything on that night, we need them to come forward.”
For more information on their campaign visit justiceforluka.com.