Vancouver, October 2: Hateful vandalism of the Historically Orange Bridge over the Somass River in Port Alberni lasted just hours before Tseshaht First Nation members and supporters removed it Saturday morning.
Photos of the vandalism showed that the Every Child Matters message that survivors of the Alberni Indian Residential School painted on the concrete barrier in front of the bridge earlier this week had been defaced, with the word “child” modified to a “derogatory, racist name,” Watts said.
The Tseshaht First Nation recently finished a ground-penetrating radar search at the former residential school, and on Friday – the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – more than 1,000 people participated in a walk to honour survivors that passed over the bridge.
“On the same night, this happens,” Watts said, describing the vandalism as “disgraceful.”
“It just shows me that we have a lot of work to do,” he added.
At the same time, Watts said the reaction to the defaced sign was immediate and “amazing.”
Some Tseshaht members noticed the vandalism while the paint was still wet and were able to remove some of it with soap and water, the chief councillor said.
On Saturday morning, he and others made their way to the bridge to repaint the sign, work they completed before noon.
Watts said the outpouring of support his nation has received since the vandalism has been encouraging.
“It shows there’s a lot of people out there that want to help our communities and support us,” he said.
Port Alberni RCMP are investigating the vandalism and asking anyone with dash cam video or information about who was responsible for defacing the signs to contact them.
“Senseless acts such as this are unacceptable and troubling to our community, and revert the efforts towards truth and reconciliation,” said Const. Richard Johns, in a news release.
“Although this crime was not reported to our detachment officers are actively investigating any available leads.”