Hours after being painted, RCMP said they are looking for witnesses to what they are describing as a “racially based” vandalism of the Orange Bridge in Port Alberni.
Last week, ahead of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the pillars of the Orange Bridge, which crosses the Somass River and connects River Road and the Pacific Rim Highway, were recently painted orange by members of Tseshaht First Nation to honour survivors of the Alberni Indian Residential School.
In a statement, Tseshaht First Nation says survivors, community members and children from Haa-huu-payuk School were invited to help paint the bridge last week.
At around 10 p.m. Friday, September 30th, Tseshaht representatives learned that the barricade on the east side of the bridge had been vandalized, and that a racial slur had been painted over part of the “every child matters” slogan.
RCMP said the racially motivated crime occurred sometime Friday evening and Saturday morning.
“Although this type of act does not come as a surprise to many, it is a sad reminder of the depth of work we, as a community and broader society, have in front of us to eliminate racism. Our Nuu-chah-nulth teaching of ḥačatakin c̓awaak reminds us that everything is one and all is connected. We are making efforts to bring our community together to move forward in a good way.”
“Senseless acts such as this are unacceptable and troubling to our community, and revert the efforts towards truth and reconciliation,” said Constable Richard Johns Media Relations Officer.
“Although this crime was not reported to our detachment officers are actively investigating any available leads.”
Tseshaht elected Chief Ken Watts said both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members came out to help clean up the vandalism and repaint the bridge on Saturday.
Port Alberni RCMP are asking the public for any information or dashcam footage that will help identify the person or persons responsible for the vandalism. Anyone with information to share may call the detachment at 250-723-2424.