A candlelight vigil to honour Chloe and Aubrey Berry will be held on the lawn facing Willows Beach at 7 p.m. on Saturday. It is being organized by members of the community along with the municipality of Oak Bay.
People can bring candles and there will be others available as well, Oak Bay acting Mayor Hazel Braithwaite said Thursday.
The bodies of Chloe, 6, and Aubrey, 4, were found by police on Christmas Day in their father’s Oak Bay apartment. Andrew Berry was taken to hospital with self-inflicted wounds.
Sarah Cotton, the girls’ mother, has been separated from their father since 2013. The two shared custody of the children.
“The outpouring of love and support is a reflection of exactly the kind of person that Sarah is, and how she was bringing up her girls,” said Sandra Hudson, a close friend of Cotton.
“They are all loving and caring people, and that love and caring is coming back to them now. It’s absolutely overwhelming, the support and the messages that we’ve been receiving and that Sarah has been receiving.”
Cotton was represented by lawyer Bea Bate at a family law proceeding in B.C. Supreme Court in November 2016.
“She wants it clarified that this was not a bitter custody battle,” Bate said. “The custody issues had been ironed out at the trial. The judgment is more than six months old. The major legal issues around parenting had been wrapped up last November. It wasn’t a situation where she was in a bitter custody battle. That doesn’t fit with her truth.”
Cotton also wants to emphasize that she did not initiate two of the investigations conducted by the Ministry for Children and Family Development. Emergency-room physicians contacted the ministry in January 2016 after Cotton noticed a large soft spot on Aubrey’s head and brought her to the hospital.
The most recent report to the ministry, that Berry’s power was cut off at his apartment because he failed to pay B.C. Hydro bills, came from someone in the community, Bate said.
The deaths have touched the community, and counsellors who work the phones at the 211 help service are preparing for calls.
Janet Tudor, director of operations for United Way Greater Victoria, a big supporter of 211, said experience has taught call-centre counsellors to expect a delay, perhaps a week or two, following a widely known public tragedy such as the deaths of the Berry girls.
Tudor said people will deal with their emotions in their own ways until they reach a point where they look for help.
“People need to process their own trauma for bit,” Tudor said. “Usually, it’s about a week later that people will reach out to talk to someone.”
Vancouver Islanders can phone at any time and receive help to find appropriate service providers nearby, whether it’s drug and alcohol assistance, financial emergencies or grief and emotional counselling. The service also offers information through its website at bc211.ca.
Following news of the deaths, emotional support was readied for children and families at the schools the girls attended: Christ Church Cathedral School for Chloe and St. Christopher’s Montessori for Aubrey. Selkirk Montessori, previously attended by Chloe, also readied support.
Environment Canada predicts Saturday will be partly cloudy, with a 10 per cent chance of precipitation for the vigil at Willows Beach. The forecast is for a high of 6 C and low of 1 C.
Reserve police constables will direct traffic. People are being asked to walk, bike or use transit if possible, or to park a few blocks away and walk to the park.
Braithwaite expects that she and Rev. Michelle Slater, of Oak Bay United Church, will say a few words, and there will be music.
People can check for updates on Oak Bay’s municipal website at oakbay.ca.
— With files from Richard Watts, Louise Dickson and Katie DeRosa