Comox Valley civic leaders denounce racism following Highway 19 blockade

WatchThe Comox Valley Regional District and K'omoks First Nation released statements this week calling on the community to stop racist comments after an anti-pipeline protest closed Highway 19 for 22 hours on Monday.

When protesters closed down a 21-kilometre stretch of Highway 19 from Cumberland to Buckley Bay on Monday, reactions from drivers seemed mixed.

Some people were very outspoken in their opposition to the blockade, even resorting to racial slurs.

It was behaviour like that got the attention of local civic leaders. The Comox Valley Regional District has joined the local K’ómoks First Nation in condemning some of the negative response to the blockade.

“We heard the blockade might have experienced some confrontation, then we saw on social media the hatred and vitriol that was being spread there, so that was really our main concern,” said Comox Valley Regional District Chair Jesse Ketler.

“We have a protocol agreement so if something like this happens, we have a process to follow and part of that process is calling out people who are acting in bad faith,” said Mayor of Courtenay Bob Wells.

The Comox Valley Regional District also released the following statement following the blockade.

“We, the Elected Officials of the Town of Comox, City of Courtenay, Village of Cumberland, and Comox Valley Regional District condemn the hatred fueled by the blockade of the Inland Island Highway on Monday, February 10, 2020.
While we recognize the right to protest under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 2(c) – Freedom of peaceful assembly, we denounce the actions that ensued. Intolerance and racism are not acceptable. We call on all members of our community to reject hateful comments and actions on social media and elsewhere. If you are aware of specific threats to members of our community, please contact the Comox Valley RCMP at (250) 338-1321.”

And the K’ómoks First Nation released this statement earlier this week.

“The K’ómoks  First Nation would like to publicly state that the protest/blockade on the Inland Island Highway on February 10th, 2020 was not a K’ómoks First Nation event. K’ómoks First Nation was never contacted or advised of this event, and we are disappointed that our name was unknowingly used. This event was organized by non-Indigenous Comox Valley residents who
aren’t connected to our territory in the same way as K’omoks, and in no way represent K’omoks or our values. It is saddening to see the racist comments in social media aimed at our community when K’omoks was not involved.”

“We just want to make sure that people realize it’s not something that is tolerated in our community,” said Wells.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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