Florence Campbell clung to her son Patrick Lucas, sobbing.
Campbell, known to family and friends as Judy, was huddled with family members under an awning on the lawn at Victoria Quay last Tuesday, March 22, overcome with emotion as the group gathered to remember her grandson, Dontay-Patrick Lucas.
The six-year-old died in a Port Alberni home four years ago, on March 13, 2018. The Port Alberni RCMP consider his death to be suspicious. No arrests have been made, and the family says they have not had an update in more than a year.
Dontay’s loss is palpable as his young cousins hold his portrait, and people who knew him quietly talk about his big smile.
“Every child matters. Every race matters,” Campbell told people at the candlelight vigil. “We’re trying to get closure. We want justice for my grandson.”
The lack of answers has angered Mariah Charleson, vice-president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. “Words don’t even express the frustration at this point,” she said following the vigil. “I sat in the meeting with the RCMP and late Dontay’s father and family over a year and a half ago now. At that time the family was told the case was almost closed.
“Months and months, over a year has now passed and we’re still waiting for answers.”
Like Dontay, Charleson is from Hesquiaht First Nation and said she is related to the Lucas family. She grew up with Patrick Lucas and aunties and uncles in Hot Springs Cove, and she knew Dontay. “I’ll never forget his smile. It’s devastating any time we lose a young child, and of course this is particularly close as he is from the same nation that I’m from.”
She doesn’t understand why more people in the community aren’t upset at what happened to Dontay. “We need to understand that a six-year-old boy’s life was taken far too young. We lost a six-year-old boy in this community; this community should be absolutely outraged and screaming for justice.”
Charleson said she and NTC president Judith Sayers brought up the Lucas case with the attorney general and had been promised that the family would hear something. “We’re beyond frustrated at this point.”
Patrick Lucas said the lack of knowing what happened to his son, and the fact the person or people responsible are still walking free, prevents him from moving on.
“I am lost for words, confused. If they have enough evidence why are arrests not being made? Why are they still walking free?”
The vigil took place four years and one day after Lucas laid his son to rest. “We’ve been silent long enough,” he said. “I really hope (the vigil) brings awareness and brings it to the public’s attention, and RCMP. We’re not going to be quiet.”
More than 40 people gathered at Victoria Quay in the mist to hold candles and support the family as they remembered Dontay. Singers and drummers from Tseshaht First Nation played a cradle song while Lucas, Campbell and a niece passed a portrait of Dontay to each person in the crowd for them to remember. Lucas sang a Hesquiaht prayer along with another family member.
Lucas’s nieces handed out photos of Dontay with the phrase “You are my Sonshine, my only sonshine, you make me happy when skies are grey,” asking people to keep Dontay’s memory alive. Family members and supporters released a number of balloons in the air, and dropped blue flowers into the Somass River from the boardwalk.
Said Charleson: “Dontay’s life mattered.”