Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells started Wednesday’s (Feb. 22) council meeting by reading a statement about the recent discovery of unmarked graves in Port Alberni.
“Our country is once again reeling at a tragic announcement of a former Indian residential school,” Wells said. “This tragic news hits close to home. The confirmation of 67 students deaths, plus the discovery of 17 suspected graves at the site of the former Alberni Indian Residential School in the territory of the Tseshaht First Nation, is heartbreaking.”
Located a few kilometres north of Alberni, the school operated from 1900 to 1973.
“While many serious abuses that were inflicted on children at this school are well-documented, countless other stories are only now coming to light. The school closed 50 years ago, but the damage and intergenerational trauma it inflicted resonates deeply to this day.”
Council paused for a minute of silence to honour the lost children.
The ad hoc Friends of Lerwick Woods is requesting space to educate and to foster respect of Lerwick Forest in East Courtenay, using guidelines of the city’s Urban Forest Strategy.
In a presentation to council, area resident Margaret Waterton said foot and bike traffic has increased in the last decade with the addition of a bike path and greenway, and put extra pressure on the park. Most people respect the woods, but she said one per cent of users seem to want to make it their personal play area.
The group hopes to involve the community to protect the forest and reverse the destructive trends. Members would like to add a lending library, a mason bee condo and a demonstration garden near the park entrance. The group hopes the city will allocate an area, and provide soil for the garden.