A handful of family and friends came together late Tuesday afternoon on the Penticton waterfront to remember 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard.
The celebration of life for the young man who died after being stabbed on a downtown Kelowna street in June, followed an earlier private service.
“This was just a chance to say our final goodbyes to Eli,” said his mom, Emily Steele, as she walked along the gravel pier from her son’s memorial where the small group had gathered. “We just don’t want this to happen to other families.”
This particular spot of the heritage park at the historic SS Sicamous paddle-wheeler on Okanagan Lake had a special meaning to the teen.
“The majority of his life Eli hung out in this area,” said his father, Robyn-Iain Beauregard, as he looked around remembering the happier times. “On this point fishing, or over there on the beach or at the skate park.
“This was just where he was the happiest, this was his comfort zone, so we thought it’s just a good spot to remember him.”
Eli had moved to Kelowna just before Christmas 2018 to live with his mother, but much like his dad in his youth, he began looking elsewhere for the things he thought he wanted in life.
This eventually landed him on the streets where he had been living off and on for several months prior to his death.
Last weekend, candlelight vigils were attended by hundreds of people on Saturday at the Sails in downtown Kelowna and Sunday at the Penticton skate park.
Since his son’s death, his Beauregard has called for more public dialogue regarding homelessness and what can be done to cure the growing homeless epidemic.
“And also my message for sure out of all this is we want to reach out to youth everywhere that might that be thinking that home is too difficult and that rules and expectations at home are not something they can handle and that the street is the answer, that is not the case,” said Beauregard. “To lose a child this way is devastating beyond words and if we can make a little bit of change out of it, that is probably what Eli would want the most.”
He described one-stop, youth-support facilities like the Penticton Foundry that recently opened as a “good step forward” but added there needs to be more funding for alternative care options.
“Kids on the street are in a lot more danger than they were in the 90’s and 2000’s,” said Beauregard. “It’s a Catch 22, every teen is different and every situation is different. For some kids these places (Foundry) are just too much like home.
“If we can find that answer, maybe we can save another teen from going down that same road that Eli did.”