The congregation at Union United Church is holding a memorial service this Sunday to mark the lives of 12 children who drowned in a terrible boating accident 65 years ago.

On July 13, 1964, the children were a day trip to the banks of the Lake of Two Mountains. They were all members of Montreal's Negro Community Centre.

Rough weather started to pick up and some of the children panicked, many jumping overboard before the boat capsized. Out of the 17 on board, only five survived.

All of the victims were between six and 11 years old.

Gayle Millington Grant was only two when it happened, but she lost her six-year-old sister Paula Annette that day. Only black-and-white photos remain of a sister she never knew.

images: Gayle Millington Grant 

"I don't think my mother was ever the same after. You can't – having experienced a loss of a child myself, I understand exactly what she went through," she said.

Most of the families were congregants at Union United Church, and inside there is now a plaque bearing each child's name.

A plaque at the Union United Church bears the victims' names

So far this year there, have been 30 drownings in Quebec, and for Millington Grant, each one is a painful reminder.

"Brings it right back home, every time. Just last week, a four-year-old in the backyard and the grownups are there," she said.

Millington Grant is advocating for a mural to be painted near the church for the victims to honour the young lives lost.

She said that for decades, nobody spoke about the loss, because it brought up too many raw emotions.

This Sunday will be different. 

"It's healing," she said. "Sixty-five years later, there still needs to be healing."