As many as 400 people attended a peace and healing vigil at Millennium Park Sunday evening.
The event was held in the wake of the tragic and untimely deaths of Christine Archibald, Matt Beaudet , Nikki Hackett, Ryan Babakaioff, Brandon Adams Tasha Bates, Richard Askew, Christy Stroes, and Sydney Jensen.
It was also intended to support families struggling with life-threatening illness (Tremblay, Heaton and Smee families, to name just a few) and to offer prayers for the safe return of Crawford Bay teacher Alvin Dunic, who has been missing since May 29.
“It’s about everyone, but no one person,” said organizer Deb McIntosh. “It’s about community coming together and making people feel like they’re not alone. We’re in this together.
“This is a very loving community, and we’re here for each other, we support each other.”
McIntosh also brought up the crisis of fentanyl overdose (which recently took the life of Sydney Jensen), and called on the government to provide more help and support for addiction treatment and prevention. At the same time, she called on society at large to challenge a knee-jerk reaction to devalue the loss of overdose victims.
“She (Sydney) didn’t choose this, no one would,” she said. “She mattered, every life matters, and we need to come together as a community and show that.”
As was noted by speaker and Aboriginal Elder Gerry Rempel, a similar ceremony was held last year at roughly the same time (June 16) after a spate of wrenching and unexpected fatalities.
The Twin Rivers Choir performed, and a variety of speakers shared their perspectives and experience, perhaps one of the most poignant being a brief address from Greg Archibald, whose daughter Christine was killed in a terrorist attack in London last week.
“We are here, one family amongst many, who are grieving the illness or loss of a loved one,” Archibald said. “There is nothing anyone can say or do to make the pain we are feeling go away. However, the overwhelming outpouring of kind thoughts, offers to help and love that we are receiving help us to persevere in these heartbreaking circumstances.
“I thank our family, our friends, and our community for their love and caring support, and we are immeasurably grateful to all the people in Castlegar, Canada, and around the world who have performed acts of kindness in our daughter’s name. Thank you.”