Aside from the sound of city workers trimming the trees, and the occasional noise of bustling buses, walking through Port Coquitlam's Veterans Park undoubtedly provides a sombre feeling to anyone who passes through.
For more than two weeks, a vigil has graced the small steps of the cenotaph placed in the middle of the square primarily bearing bright orange — even more illuminated by the sun Saturday afternoon (June 12) — in honour of the 215 children found in unmarked graves at a former Kamloops residential school.
But the vigil isn't just for those children.
The community memorial was created to show solidarity to everyone who attended residential schools of Canada's past, and is one of many across the Tri-Cities in recognizing the tragic history.
In addition to teddy bears, stuffed animals and shoes for the children, an eye-catching feature of PoCo's is the notes that hang from a covering placed earlier this week to stave off rain and other inclement weather.
The letters convey messages of apology for what has happened, but also of hope for reconciliation and understanding for all Indigenous peoples moving forward.
"I'm sorry — is never enough and never will be enough for what happened; not only to these precious innocent children but to all your people." reads a letter typed up and place on an orange paper to border the words.
There's also no signature or name on the letter, but the writer identifies themselves as a "colonizer by definition," as well as a mother and a mental health nurse.
"I do not know the words to even convey my sorrow and grief for you."
A letter also appears to be taped on the inside of the cover 📝 It begins with saying “I’m sorry” is never a good enough phrase in response to Canada’s history of residential schools. It ends with, “I will never stop caring or figuring for you” | #PortCoquitlam #EveryChildMatters pic.twitter.com/zt0ulid06A— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) June 12, 2021
Feeling "ashamed" as they write the letter, they pledge to advocate for Indigenous communities and speak out on any racially-injustice circumstances.
"I will continue to buy from Aboriginal businesses and do everything I can to support bringing your culture back to life," the letter continues.
"The right to practice your beliefs, learn and speak your language and to teach others about your culture."
A second letter taped to the right of the first appears to have been written by a child acknowledging that they've been hearing about the impacts of residential schools in Canada and expresses an apology too.
"Sorry that happened to you and your families," the person writes with their own hand.
"I have been learning about it at school and it is good that more grown-ups are now learning about it too."
At the vigil, passersby will also notice two large orange papers at the back of the covering continuing on the "Every Child Matters" phrase notably brought every Orange Shirt Day every Sept. 30.
The phrase, however, reminisced with the discovery of the 215 children and has since been fittingly used more often in their honour.
Orange ribbons also hang on a string across the front of the makeshift memorial.