Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre in Etobicoke Friday to pray for Nyima Dolma’s swift rebirth.
Dolma, 28, died last week from injuries sustained after she was set on fire on a Kipling Station TTC bus in July. She was described by her family as a caregiver who lived a life of service, someone deeply loved and dearly missed.
Even attendees who did not know Dolma personally feel a pain that won’t abate.
“It is so sad, so disgusting,” said Thupten Namdol. “She was just about to get her registered nursing certificate. She came here with a goal in her mind, that she would work here and serve the community here in Toronto. But her life was cut short.”
Urgyen Badheytsang said the ceremony offered not only an outlet for the community’s grief but a chance to ask questions and share what little is known about why Dolma was killed.
“This is something our community has never experienced,” he said. “This young woman, with her whole life ahead of her, had it all extinguished. And it’s not just that she was so young, it was the way that she died. A lot of people are here not only to pay respect, but to try to understand how this could happen.”
Dolma’s killing — the motivation of which is still being investigated by police — is alleged to have been perpetrated by 33-year-old Tenzin Norbu. Norbu, whose family was known in the Tibetan community although he was an apparent stranger to Dolma, is now facing a first-degree murder charge.
Some in the community said Dolma’s death is a sign more needs to be done to prevent violence against women.
While the Tibetan Women’s Association of Ontario said it doesn’t know anything more about the motive than what has been publicly released, a spokesperson said the attack is still a case in which another woman was victimized. The group said it “vehemently condemns all forms of gender-based violence, which ultimately are rooted in patriarchy and misogyny.”
Speaking to media outside the ceremony Friday, Tsomo, program co-ordinator for TWAO, said the government must create more “accessible and culturally-relevant resources and support for people experiencing gender-based violence and mental illnesses.”
As well, Tsomo urged people following Dolma’s story to avoid judging the Tibetan community for Norbu’s alleged actions — a pattern she says she has seen play out for other communities that suffered stereotyping after aberrant violent incidents.
“This causes long-lasting harm to communities who are already marginalized in various ways,” she said. “We urge everyone to be aware, responsible and careful in not contributing to that narrative.”
Ben Cohen is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bcohenn