Warning: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
Douglas Hyacinth Eustache was sitting on the sidewalk in the Kamloops’ downtown core, where he spends much of his days, when cameraman Darren Twiss and I met him.
His warmth and welcoming nature went from being distinctive to remarkable after learning more about his past.
Eustache immediately opened up to us about his time at the former residential school and some of the horrifying memories that continue to torment him today.
His story is heartbreaking and hard to hear and it depicts the devastation residential school survivors deal with daily.
He told us he wanted to share it and do an interview to let out some of his pain, and to help people understand what his experience in that very school did to him.
But when he tried to talk about it, he broke down and needed to stop the interview. We have chosen, with his permission, to share what happened.
The memories are from more than four decades ago and it’s evident how much they still haunt him. The discovery of children’s remains nearby has left him reeling and remembering the darkest chapters of his life.
“I didn’t know there could be little kids that were buried there, and I broke down pretty bad,” Eustache told me through tears.
“I was there from 1971 to 1975 and I could hear my friends and that crying getting dragged downstairs whenever.”
He says the recent development has reopened wounds so deep, he can’t sleep at night. It’s tragic testament to the trauma tied to Canada’s colonial past.
“I wanted to get out of there so bad, but I was raped and abused mentally, physically, sexually and all that I hear about all these kids that might be my family over there too,” he said as he broke down and was unable to continue the interview with us.
Eustache is wearing a neck brace, he says, after being assaulted by strangers on the streets who he says hurled racist slurs as they kicked and punched him.
However, recovering from that beating, he says, pales in comparison to his attempts to heal from those childhood horrors he’s been re-living in recent days.
As I sat with him in the moments after he had to walk away from the interview, and in the hours afterwards, he said he’s determined to heal, for the sake of future generations, and is encouraging fellow survivors to seek help through counselling.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419