The City of Port Alberni and Tseshaht First Nation are condemning an act of racism that took place in the Alberni Valley on Tuesday morning.
Video has been circulating on social media showing a white pickup truck driving through Tseshaht First Nation territory in the early morning of Tuesday, June 2. The occupants of the truck are heard shouting stereotypical whooping sounds out the window.
Several witnesses have said on social media that the occupants were also shouting racial slurs from the windows.
“This morning, we learned of what appears to be a shocking, racially-fueled incident that targeted local First Nations on the Tseshaht Reserve,” said Tseshaht elected Chief Councillor Cynthia Dick in a press release.
The incident has been reported to the Port Alberni RCMP, she added.
“As leaders in the Alberni Valley, we will do everything in our power to assist RCMP in finding these individuals so they may be held accountable for their actions,” said Dick.
“At this time, we want to thank those that have extended their support to our community. While this incident is upsetting, we are determined to emerge stronger and to use this as an opportunity to foster unity and teach our children what it takes to build a happy, healthy community that respects diversity and celebrates individuality.”
Members of Tseshaht First Nation and the City of Port Alberni joined together on Tuesday afternoon to say a prayer and sing a traditional song, offering forgiveness for the occupants of the truck.
Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions also posted on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, stating that the city will do all it can to make sure the people involved in the incident are held accountable.
“To actually see what appears to be at the very least ignorance if not hate being expressed toward members of our community is absolutely heartbreaking and my deepest sympathies go out to each and every person in our community who has ever been the recipient of this type of behaviour and who is affected by this incident,” she said.
The incident took place the night after several Port Alberni residents gathered at Millstone Park for a peaceful protest against racism, inspired by the many protests that have been taking place across Canada and the United States over the past few weeks.
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns also offered his support for the Tseshaht First Nation and other Nuu-chah-nulth nations on Tuesday.
“The terrible acts of racism that played out in our community last night are an upsetting wakeup call that while it’s easy to look at what is happening in the U.S. as being far away, racism and hate still exists in our own backyard,” he said. “As shocking as this news is to some, anti-Indigenous racism and other forms of prejudice and hate are a frightening reality faced by many in our community every day.”
The incident on Monday night was not an isolated one, said Minions.
“It would certainly be easier to write this off as a one time thing, simply a bad judgment call on someone’s part,” she said. “But that would be unfair to every person in this area who has ever had to be the victim of racism.
“We have work to do as a community to right these wrongs, grow, and simply be better. I know the disappointing actions of a few last night are not representative of the amazing people who live and work in this wonderful community. But we all have a role to play in moving forward.”
The Alberni Valley News has reached out to the Port Alberni RCMP for comment. If you have information on this incident, or other similar incidents that have occurred in the Alberni Valley, please contact the Port Alberni RCMP at 250-723-2424.