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RCMP, Squamish Nation call for help in residential school memorial vandalism investigation

The vandalism was reported in January but, so far, no suspects have been found.
The memorial for St. Paul's Residential School victims on Sixth Street in North Vancouver has been damaged. One of the arms of the male figure is missing.

North Vancouver RCMP and the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) are renewing their plea for help from the public in finding the suspect who defaced a memorial dedicated to the victims and survivors of the St. Paul’s Indian Residential School.

The carving, which sits outside the Sister of St. Paul convent on Sixth Street, was discovered vandalized on Jan. 24. Someone had broken off an arm on one of the ceremonial figures.

"We were shocked and saddened when we discovered that the monument had been vandalized," said Squamish Nation spokesperson Sxwíxwtn (Wilson Williams). "This act of vandalism has caused immense grief to residential school survivors and their loved ones."

The carving memorializes those children of Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, shíshálh (Sechelt) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations who were taken from their parents and forced to live at St. Paul's Residential School.

North Vancouver RCMP started an investigation in January, which involved canvassing the neighbourhood looking for possible witnesses or surveillance footage. At this point though, the investigation has stalled.

“Maybe somebody knows something, maybe somebody has heard something in the interim, maybe somebody has talked about it. And if so, then we're hopeful that we're going to get some information from the public that will give us an avenue to pursue,” said Sgt. Peter DeVries, North Vancouver RCMP spokesman.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the North Vancouver RCMP at 604-985-1311. Anyone who wishes to provide information but who wants to remain anonymous can contact CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

“It's an important monument to the community, and especially to the survivors and victims of the school that was at that sit and it perpetuates some of the harms that were experienced at the time. It has an impact in particular on First Nations communities, and it's very important to them, but it's also important as a memorial to the community at large,” DeVries said. “It would be really great if we could identify who was responsible for this.”

This story was originally published on Jan. 26, 2022.

North Vancouver RCMP are investigating after the memorial dedicated to St. Paul’s Residential School victims was damaged.

Artist Shain Jackson, who worked on the piece with carvers Jason and Morris Nahanee, noticed the damage on Monday (Jan. 24), and called Jason to let him know.

“Shain sent me a picture on Messenger, and asked me if I knew that one of the arms is missing off the monument. I said, ‘No.' So we're going to look at it, and sure enough, one of the arms has been detached at the joint,” Nahanee said.

Unsure of the motivation or reason why the arm is now missing, Nahanee said one would have to get pretty high up, "about seven feet," to touch it.

"I can't tell what kind of feelings that person had when they pulled it off, or whether they're just trying to climb on it," he said. “It's kind of shocking to see, whether it's vandalism, or hate crime or what, I'm not sure."

The carving outside the former Sisters of St. Paul convent on Sixth Street memorializes the more than 2,000 children from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), shíshálh (Sechelt) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations who were taken from their parents and forced to live at St. Paul’s Residential School, where the Catholic regional secondary school St.Thomas Aquinas now stands.

The monument by the three Coast Salish artists was placed there to coincide with the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The North Vancouver school district now uses the memorial as a learning tool for students.

This is not the first time the memorial has been damaged or vandalized. In April 2020, the memorial was defaced with blue graffiti that was sexual in nature.

In a statement to North Shore News, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) Spokesperson Sxwíxwtn (Wilson Williams) said the Nation is looking for answers, and will continue to support members.

"The memorial at the former St. Paul’s site honours our survivors and commemorates the children that did not return home. The vandalism of this memorial is distressing, and violent. The Squamish Nation Council will pursue action and answers, and we offer our support to our community. Our people continue to heal.

"We call upon the neighbours of our shared territories to honour those we have lost, and to protect the memorials that commemorate our Survivors and the children who were taken from our communities," Sxwíxwtn said.

Sgt. Peter DeVries with the North Vancouver RCMP said the Mounties were also informed of the damage on Monday.

“Our investigation is ongoing, and we continue to seek public assistance in locating the person or persons responsible,” he said to the North Shore News.

DeVries asks that anyone who may have witnessed the damage, or may have information about who was responsible, to call the North Vancouver RCMP at 604-985-1311 and quote file #2022-1993.

Emotional support and assistance for those who are affected by the residential school system can be found at Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free 1 (800) 721-0066 or 24-hr Crisis Line 1 (866) 925-4419.

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