Arron Thompson’s family said goodbye to him last Saturday.
At his funeral, pallbearers quietly walked Thompson’s flower-laden grey casket out to a waiting van. His remains are to be cremated.
The family lost more that one brother that fateful Monday when Arron was stabbed to death.
Their other brother Archibald is facing second degree murder charges in connection with the incident. Crown Counsel in Port Alberni is still reviewing the matter and charges may yet change.
Arron Thompson’s seven siblings and his parents now begin the task of trying to cope and heal in the wake of what is an alleged fratricide.
But a deep reservoir of love and a strong familial bond are enabling the family to not just cope with the immense loss of Arron, but also to try and forgive their brother Archibald.
“We love each other unconditionally, all of us,” eldest sister Caroline said. “I’d say that to Archibald if he walked through the door.”
The siblings— some of whom have different fathers, and come from different Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations—don’t see themselves as a typical blended family.
“Mom never treated us differently because we had different fathers,” Caroline said. “We loved each other as one family.”
The siblings each grew up in foster care, not always together, and the homes were exclusively non-aboriginal, she said. The siblings longed to live as a family again, but the lack of cultural exposure created a unique form of loneliness that would influence Arron’s life in the end, Caroline said.
Archibald was the first boy born to mother Marsha and her first husband. Aaron was born four years later to Marsha’s second partner.
The boys were inseparable, often dressing in the same clothes and playing with the same toys, Caroline said.
“They were really close and Archibald always looked out for (Arron),” she said. “He always took his role as the older brother seriously even after they grew up.”
The brothers were taken into foster care when they were under age 10, she said. The other siblings followed in succession.
Once, the boys hitchhiked from their rural foster home to their mother’s residence in town only to be returned by the police later, Catherine said.
“Archibald was bounced around in care a lot. He took it harder and always wanted to be with our mom,” she said.
The boys separated later. Arron lived with sister Caroline, and Archibald later with Catherine.
Arron never wanted to be in the last home he was assigned to. Caroline, who was in her mid-20s with children of her own, took him in.
“All he said was that he couldn’t wait to get out of there,” she said.
Arron always struggled with the cultural isolation of living in a non-aboriginal foster home, Caroline said.
“He realized how much he missed out on (his) culture while he was in foster care. It was a missing piece of his life.”
Arron had also talked to his family about one day becoming a social worker.
Archibald was also reticent about his time in care, said Catherine, who took him in.
“I didn’t prepare with courses the way my sister did but I still took him in. He’s my brother and I took him in to help.”
He applied himself to school, graduating from VAST in 2008-09, even giving an aboriginal drum to school staff. He travelled during that time as well, something he often reflected on.
The brothers sometimes had dustups but nothing that hinted at fierce sibling rivalry, Catherine said. “They’d wrestle around…but that was it,” she said.
After each of the seven children passed through foster care and grew into adulthood they forged a close bond, trying to making up for lost time.
The family, some with children of their own now, celebrate birthdays and holidays together, and frequently visit one another.
“Arron got the Army Cadet Hall for us once so we could all have Christmas dinner together,” Caroline said. “He and Archibald cooked the dinner. Arron wasn’t much of a cook but he did his part.”
Both boys moved in with their mother after they became adults—Archibald first then Arron eight months ago. They picked up where they left off as children: they’d hang out, walk, talk, and play video games late into the night.
If something smouldered below the surface between the two young men, it was exacerbated by the grinding effect of poverty, Caroline surmised.
The boys worked seasonally at a fish plant. They didn’t always qualify for employment assistance and resorted to social assistance for an income. “There was tension because of finances. Living in that kind of poverty made things difficult,” Caroline said.
Archibald also began wrestling with alcohol issues, and he recently spent time at a treatment facility in Comox, she said.
The family isn’t sure of what happened on the morning of May 6. All they know for sure is Aaron staggered out of the residence and across the road, bleeding profusely from a stab wound.
“I was at work when I found out. I went to get my sister then I texted my mother and we went to the hospital,” Caroline said. “We weren’t sure yet if Archibald was involved.”
The two sisters and mother sat anxiously in the hospital waiting room. At 10:30 a.m., doctors told the group that Arron didn’t make it.
“Archibald called mom on her cell and she told him ‘Arron is dead,’” Caroline said.
A few hours later, a police dog team flushed Archibald out of Dry Creek Park. He was arrested on Frank Street after a short foot chase. He remains in custody. Police are still investigating the matter and are being assisted by a unit of officers from Victoria, police said.
The mother has seen and talked to Archibald since he’s been in custody. None of his siblings have though, Catherine said.
At the end of the funeral, family and friends gathered for a luncheon at the Port Alberni Friendship Centre, a fixture in the siblings’ lives while growing up.
Afterward, as tables and chairs were put away, the family walked out of the centre and on to their healing journey.
The family feels an obligation to both grieve for their dead brother, but also to support the brother who is accused of killing him.
“(Archibald) is our brother and we would never turn our back on him,” Caroline said. “I know we have the strength to get through this.”
“They are our brothers and we unconditionally love both of them,” Caroline said.
“It’s going to be a long hard road for us to accept this.”