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Sherwood Park man sentenced to life, no parole eligibility for 16 years in wife’s nephew’s killing

An Edmonton judge urged the family of Gamdur Brar, a Sherwood Park funeral home owner, to consider offering reparations to the family of a 19-year-old whom he fatally shot nearly three years ago.

Court of King’s Bench Justice Stephen Hillier ruled Friday that Brar, 46, will not be eligible to apply for parole for 16 years, as he serves a mandatory life sentence for his second-degree murder conviction in the death of Harmanjot Bhattal.

“This was a murder, and it involved a handgun,” Hillier said Friday. “The violence was highly public, and it placed others at serious risk”

Brar was also sentenced to 7½ years for discharging a firearm with intent to endanger his wife Satvir Brar’s life. That sentence will be served concurrently with the life sentence for the murder conviction. 

Last year, Hillier found that Brar shot and injured his wife and shot and killed her nephew following a vehicle chase through Sherwood Park in May 2021.

Satvir Brar, who fled the scene, was taken to hospital by a passerby who let her into his truck. She told police her husband had shot her, but during the trial she testified that she did not know who shot her.

Hillier found that her original statement to police was reliable.

‘We miss our son every moment’

Bhattal’s parents, who live in India, and his aunt, who lives in Australia, attended Friday’s sentencing hearing by video conference.

Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou read victim impact statements prepared by the parents at the outset of the hearing, which detailed the shock and loss they felt after learning the child they sent to Canada to pursue an education had been killed.

It was another blow to learn that Brar had shot their son in the head at close range. His wife Satvir Brar was Bhattal’s guardian when he first arrived in Canada as a 17-year-old.

Court heard the family sold land and took out loans to pay for their son to be able to live and attend school abroad. Shortly before he was killed, he’d managed to get a car and a job.

His father says Bhattal proudly told him he was excited to start helping his family pay down the debts. 

After handling the complexity and delays of returning their son’s body to India, the parents — both teachers — struggled to return to work and still deal with depression. They ended up moving to a different home and new community because the memories were too painful to bear.

“We used to talk to our son every day, but now we miss our son every moment,” his father Avtar Singh Bhattal wrote.

The couple has since had another baby, but Bhattal’s mother is dealing with ongoing health issues.

Bhattal’s parents had applied to the court for restitution for the many financial losses they sustained as a result of their son’s death. 

Hillier found that the Criminal Code does not allow for him to order Brar to compensate his victim’s family, but said that’s something the Brar family could consider independently of the courts.

A number of Brar’s family members and supporters were in the courtroom gallery Friday, including his sisters, mother and wife. 

Letters of support

Court heard that after a difficult childhood in India, Brar immigrated to Canada, where he became increasingly successful. Eventually, he and his wife owned a driving school, then acquired a driving company and a funeral home.

Court also heard that he has struggled with alcoholism for years.

More than 30 letters of support were filed with the court for the sentencing, which, defence lawyers Shawn King and Ashton Milroy argued, demonstrate his value to the community.

They argued the community support and his participation in rehabilitative programs while in jail awaiting trial warranted setting his parole eligibility at the minimum of 10 years on the life sentence, and seven years for the discharge with intent conviction.

Papadatou and fellow prosecutor James Doran advocated for an ineligibility period of 20 to 25 years for the murder conviction, and eight to 10 years for the gun charge conviction. They argued that there were a number of aggravating factors, including the use of a restricted weapon, the public venue and the domestic violence context at the root of the offence.

In addition to the prison term, Hillier agreed to impose a weapons prohibition, and ordered Brar to provide a DNA sample. The judge declined to limit Brar’s ability to communicate with his wife and two sons.

Court heard that, following Brar’s arrest, a psychiatric assessment found he posed a low safety risk to the community, but he was a moderate threat to his wife. Hillier said that it would be up for Satvir Brar to determine how she wants to proceed.

The Crown has filed an appeal of the second-degree murder conviction, seeking a conviction of first-degree murder instead.

Brar was tried for first-degree murder, but found guilty of the lesser charge.

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