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'It's a wake-up call': First Nation determined to make change after racist incident
PORT ALBERNI, B.C. -- What began as shock and anger has now turned into a teaching moment for a First Nation community in Port Alberni.
A video that was posted on Facebook shows a white pickup truck with four people onboard travelling through the Tseshaht reserve around 1 a.m. Tuesday. Residents of the reserve say they could hear the occupants yelling racial slurs as they slowly drove through the neighbourhood.
"They were doing the stereo-typical Indian call and they were also saying ‘F the Indians,’ ‘I hate Indians,’ we're free-loaders, stuff like that," says Nasimius Ross, who posted the video.
The video was shot by one of Ross’ neighbours, who was in the backyard when the truck was driving around. Ross says his neighbour was badly shaken by the incident.
He says he himself was first angered by what transpired and wanted to go out and look for the four to confront them. He now says he’s glad he didn't. He doesn't know how it would have escalated and he's now looking at the incident as being a valuable teaching moment.
"It's a wake-up call. It's a wake up call to Port Alberni that this isn't tolerated anymore and that we're going to unite and stand together with this," he says.
Tseshaht's elected chief councillor agrees and says her community has been receiving great support throughout Port Alberni and across Canada.
"My first emotion like many was very upset. It's been a wave of different emotions, you have sadness, you have anger, you have hope," says Cynthia Dick.
Dick says the incident was particularly hurtful given the reconciliation work that has occurred in the Alberni Valley in the past few years.
"It's learned behaviour that was passed on to them. I hope that they recognize the wrong-doing and the hurt they caused and they use it as an opportunity to heal and learn about us," Dick says.
She's hoping the individuals are held accountable and that anyone with information on who may be responsible will contact Port Alberni RCMP, who are investigating.
The city's Mayor Sharie Minions called the incident heart-breaking and is hoping it was done by young people who unfortunately don't know better.
"That's not an excuse, but for me, I think, we have to recognize the systemic racism that is in this community and in a lot of communities, we do have an issue with racism that needs to be addressed," Minions says.
She says it's time for people to be vocal when they see racism and call it unacceptable. She says she’s seeing some reassuring comments being made to combat what took place.
"There's a lot of really caring, compassionate people who live in this community and that's the direction we're going and it's been great to see them coming out and saying this doesn't represent us," Minions says.