the Discourse, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
This article contains accounts of police violence, as well as accounts of racism and hate against Indigenous people that could be triggering. Please read with care.
A busy pier forms the backdrop to the small courtyard next to Island Funeral Services funeral home in Campbell River on July 20. Alunaye, Laura Holland sits in the shade of a nearby maple tree, waiting for the memorial ceremony for her son to begin.
She recalls one of her favourite stories about her lost loved one.
When he was seven years-old, he surprised her with a small book he had crafted about orcas, which he had been learning about in his Grade Two class.
“He told me in great detail, how he made the book all about the orcas and how they were families and how they stayed together forever,” Laura, who’s of the Laksilyu House of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, tells IndigiNews in the quiet shade.
“He put his little arms around my legs and he said, ‘Oh, mommy, I’m going to be like a killer whale, I’m going to live with you forever.’”
Jared Lowndes, of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, was killed by Campbell River RCMP on July 8, 2021. Before a memorial for his life, his mother Laura Holland shares a story with IndigiNews about when her son was a boy.
‘He belonged in our houses, our clans, our systems’
Jared Lowndes, known as Jay, was killed by Campbell River RCMP on the morning of July 8. He was 38. The Independent Investigations Office, a civilian-led police oversight agency, is currently investigating the case, while the RCMP press release states the incident began with an attempt to stop the man for an outstanding warrant.
Following the incident, Jay’s family and friends have publicly questioned the validity of the police pursuit and called for answers, accountability, and an end to targeted police violence.
After his death, his mother Laura went to the scene and touched the ground he had laid on.
“I don’t feel him there. I don’t feel him here. I feel him everywhere,” Laura says. “He’s in the sky. He’s in the clouds. He’s in the trees, he’s in the ocean. He’s surrounding us everywhere.”
This is someone who was loved dearly, she says.
“This is someone who belonged in our houses, in our clans, in our systems.”
Twelve days after he was shot, friends, community, and allies gathered, filling the funeral home parking lot, sharing stories about the man who they remembered as a kind father and beloved mentor who would do anything to support his loved ones.
The ceremony was both a memorial and a protest, as the community grappled with the circumstances around Jay’s violent death.
Some held signs with messages of love — “Jared was loved”, and “Jay – a loving father” — while others called to “disarm RCMP” and a need for officers to wear “always on” body cams.
‘I lost my best friend and the best dad’
Jay was taken from two daughters, including Phoenix, who’s 13 years-old.
“It’s really hard to believe that my dad is gone, because I always thought I would live with him until I’m 18, and he would walk me down the aisle when I got married, but now that can’t happen,” she tells IndigiNews.
“All I know is that I lost my best friend and the best dad, the person who understood me most. I’m just glad we got all our good and funny memories though. I’ll hold onto that.”
Jay’s sister Chenoah Holland remembers being five years-old when her brother was 15. She had just watched a documentary about African fire ants, she tells IndigiNews. She smiles through tears, recalling sitting on a white wooden fence and seeing some red ants.
She screamed, and within seconds Jay had jumped out his window to comfort her. He always left it open to listen, if she was outside playing, she says.
For most of the past seven years, Jay lived with friends Lee Hackett and Dorothy Andrew. Dorothy says the memorial was a chance to meet all the people from Jay’s stories.
“He was a kind, genuine person who would do anything to help anyone. He knew what it was to be alone and didn’t want anyone else to feel that,” says Dorothy.
He had dreams and plans of building his own place, she adds. “A home, for him and his daughters. Somewhere they could always go. To be together, to be safe.”
Experiences of abuse in the foster care system left Jay with the wish, and motivation to create strong roots for his daughters, say his friends.
Jay was proud to be Indigenous, and proud to be Wet’suwet’en, they say. His Nation had given him permission to build on land that was originally his grandfather’s. His goal was to have his home finished by Christmas.
“He was a protector for those without voices. He would stand up for us when nobody else would,” shares Randy Geddes in an eulogy. He grew up with Jay, who became a role model. Anytime Randy was going through a low point, he says, he could reach out to Jay.
“He would remind me of the reasons to stay sober and bring me back to why I am doing the things I’m doing,” he says.
He wanted people to be the best versions of themselves, to do well and be happy. I wish I got to tell him that I loved him.”
Four warrior cries rang out when Sean Holland brought out his brother’s ashes. Randy sang a spirit song, and drumming followed.
“My son is gone. I can never see his face again, but he’s with me,” Laura says. “I’ll take him with me in everything that I do. Every breath I take, I’ll bring my boy with me.”
Procession stops at police station
The procession carries Jay’s ashes through Campbell River, with a presence Laura says she knew her son would have wanted.
“Jared would have wanted us to be loud,” Laura tells the group.
Mourners and supporters stop at the RCMP station, with determined drumming and songs that rises in volume as they approached the station doors.
Laura walks into the station with her daughter Shoshannah drumming at her side.
“You were created to control and kill Indians and you have not stopped,” Laura says to RCMP.
An officer tries to say, “I understand,” something Laura says she predicted.
“They will say, ‘we understand’. There is no possible way that a non-native person would know what we’re going through,” she says. “So many of us have grown up with fear of the state and fear of the government and anything that looks like it.”
‘I need to dig deeper’
Laura says she won’t stop until she finds justice for her son.
Her life’s work has been around advocating for Indigenous people being crushed by colonial systems — on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and beyond — and she is prepared to keep going.
“This was a group of mothers I didn’t want to join,” Laura says. “I never expected to be here, I was always afraid to be here, but here I am… Now I’m in a place where I need to do the work differently. I need to push a little harder, I need to dig a little deeper.”
Laura’s voice nearly breaks when she says she feels “ruined” through the loss of her son, but she holds herself together.
“Waking up in the morning is a struggle,” she says. “But I have other children and grandchildren. I have a fear I will never be happy again, because the horror of my son being shot in the face keeps me awake, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get past that, but I’m going to try.”
Laura says she could have a million people behind her, or maybe just a thousand, or a hundred, but she knows she is supported wherever she is.
“What I know is that the ancestors are watching and the ancestors are with us and they are very, very proud of who my son is. And so am I,” she says.