A South Asian community political organizer and former general secretary of Vancouver’s Ross Street Sikh Temple died after falling down stairs at a Richmond party.
While Richmond RCMP believe the death of Rajinder Singh Bhela was an accident, they are still appealing for clues.
Bhela, 50, suffered a serious head injury on Jan. 30 in a building at 11732 River Road in Richmond. Sources tell theBreaker.news that Bhela was attending a booze-filled party that was held contrary to public health orders. Paramedics rushed Bhela to a trauma centre, but he died four days later in hospital.
As per its policy, the B.C. Coroners Service would not confirm Bhela’s identity when contacted by theBreaker.news. The agency did say it was notified of a death on Feb. 3 and is investigating. “It would be a bit too early and speculative to provide any details until the coroner has completed the investigation,” said the service in an anonymous statement.
Richmond RCMP issued a news release on Feb. 10 that did not name Bhela. The Mounties said they were unaware of the incident until Feb. 5 — two days after Bhela died — when the B.C. Coroners Service “requested clarification on the circumstances.”
“While the investigation is still ongoing, evidence obtained so far suggests this was indeed an accidental fall. At this time, police do not suspect foul play,” said the statement from Cpl. Ian Henderson. He appealed for witnesses to call 604-278-1212 and quote file number 21-3371.
Bhela was a South Asian community organizer for Andrew Scheer’s successful Conservative leadership campaign, but Scheer distanced himself from Bhela in spring 2018 when Bhela was accused of defrauding the Toronto Dominion Bank.
By summer 2018, brothers Pal and Gurdyal Sahota, best known as owners of the notorious Balmoral Hotel, sued Bhela and developer Tarsem Singh Gill, claiming they owed $4 million in loans.
Bhela was also on the inner-circle of Hector Bremner’s by-election win for an NPA city council seat in 2017 and Bremner’s failed 2018 mayoral bid with Mark Marissen’s Yes Vancouver party.
Bhela quit the federal Liberal Party in 2014 when he claimed Sikh extremists were manipulating Justin Trudeau, after Harjit Sajjan was appointed the party’s candidate in Vancouver South. In 2013, Bhela was on the guest list for BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark’s cabinet unveiling event in Vancouver for party donors, lobbyists and campaign staff.
In a Feb. 4 Facebook post, fellow Conservative operative Mani Deol-Fallon wrote: “He worked hard for things he cared about and enjoyed helping people. He never asked for anything in return. He spoke of the love for his parents and children often.”
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