By Charlie Carey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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 S?wx?wu7mesh (Squamish), s?l?ilw?ta?? (Tsleil-Waututh), shishalh (Sechelt) and x?m??k??y??m (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, S?wx?wu7mesh ?xwumixw (Squamish Nation) Spokesperson Sxwixwtn (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,” Sxwixwtn 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.
Charlie Carey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the NORTH SHORE NEWS . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada