First Nation and B.C. politicians denounce racist threat against totem poles at Sunshine Coast school

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      A local First Nation and B.C. politicians are speaking out after someone made a threat to topple totem poles located at a B.C. coast high school.

      On July 8, Sunshine Coast RCMP stated in a news release that they received a call from the Pender Harbour Secondary School, located north Vancouver in Madeira Park, B.C., shortly after 9 a.m.on July 7.

      The school principal reported that a banner was found tied between two totem poles at the school with a threat that they would be torn down.

      According to news reports, the message stated that “If u touch George/Stanley/or John A”, the totem poles would be taken down. The threat arrives as statues of numerous Confederate figures and others connected to slavery and anti-Black racism are being removed in the U.S. 

      “John A.” most likely refers to Canada’s first prime minister John A. Macdonald. The removal of statutes of Macdonald across Canada has been the subject of debate due to his anti-Indigenous policies, which includes the development of the residential school system. In August 2018, a statue of Macdonald was removed from the steps of Victoria City Hall.

      “George” could refer either to a statue of George Gibsons in Gibsons, B.C., or perhaps to a statue of George Vancouver at Vancouver City Hall.

      “Stanley” may refer a statue of Lord Frederick Stanley at Stanley Park, whom the park is named after.

      Sunshine Coast RCMP also released video surveillance images of the individual.

      "Given the sensitive nature of this threat, police are working diligently to locate a suspect and are asking for the public's assistance in identifying the person in the surveillance video," Sunshine Coast RCMP Const. Jihan McDougall stated in the news release. "There is no tolerance for this type of behaviour and we will work very hard to find the person responsible."

      Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Sunshine Coast RCMP.

      The shíshálh Nation, based in Sechelt, B.C., issued a statement on July 8 to condemn the vandalism, which took place on its unceded territory.

      In addition, the shíshálh Nation stated that the word “conquered” was painted on a highway sign in the traditional shíshálh language of she shashishalhem. Police are investigating that act of vandalism as well.

      On July 9, the B.C. government issued a joint statement from Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser; Forests and Rural Development Minister Doug Donaldson; and Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons to denounce this act of anti-Indigenous racism.

      “We stand together with shíshálh Nation to denounce and condemn in the strongest possible terms the racist anti-Indigenous vandalism that occurred on July 7, 2020,” they stated. “These ignorant, cowardly and reprehensible acts are contrary to the values of our government and the people of British Columbia and Canada.”