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Port Alberni bridge honouring residential school survivors hit in 'racially based crime'

“Senseless acts such as this are unacceptable and troubling to our community, and revert the efforts toward truth and reconciliation,” said a statement from Const. Richard Johns.
RCMP are looking for witnesses or anyone with information about a “racially based crime” targeting the newly painted Orange Bridge in Port Alberni. The vandalism is obscured in this image released by police. PORT ALBERNI RCMP

RCMP are looking for witnesses to what they are calling “racially based” vandalism of the Orange Bridge in Port Alberni.

Pillars of the 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.

The words “Every Child Matters” were added on the east side of the structure.

Sometime Friday evening, someone spray painted over the word “child” in what police referred to as a “senseless and racially based crime.”

The vandalism took place just hours after more than 1,000 participants walked in unity from Harbour Quay to the Maht Mahs gym, the former site of the residential school, as part of events for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Tseshaht First Nation leadership learned of the vandalism around 10 p.m. Friday.

In a statement, the nation called the crime a “sad reminder of the depth of work, we, as a community and broader society, have in front of us to eliminate racism.”

“After the uplifting day of community gathering that took place [Friday], we hope that this hurtful and disrespectful act does not bring our survivors down,” the statement said.

“The incident has triggered feelings of anger and hurt in many people.”

The nation said both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members came out to help clean up the vandalism and repaint the bridge.

“We cannot let the hate of a few people break the strength of our community and the positive relationships that are being forged,” the statement said.

“Senseless acts such as this are unacceptable and troubling to our community, and revert the efforts toward truth and reconciliation,” Const. Richard Johns saidin a statement.

“Although this crime was not reported to our detachment, officers are actively investigating any available leads.”

Police ask anyone with dash cam video or information about the crime to contact the Port Alberni RCMP detachment at 250-723-2424.

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