The students who created a mural with a Truth and Reconciliation mural in Summerland will repair the damage after vandals defaced it with graffiti.
Emilia Tolnai and Kira Nilson, Grade 12 students at Summerland Secondary School, said the bright pink spray paint cannot be washed off the mural, at the high school’s tennis courts. Instead, students will cover the paint, while preserving the mural itself.
The mural had the words, ‘Every Child Matters’ in English, French, Cree and Syilx. In addition, orange handprints, from students and members of the community, were placed on the white wall. The mural had been created around the time of the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, 2021.
The vandals painted through the word ‘Child’ on the mural. Underneath, the word ‘Belief’ was added, altering the message.
Tolnai was puzzled by the graffiti on the mural, since graffiti on a wall across from the mural included messages such as, ‘Don’t sell your soul,’ ‘Trust’ and ‘Be yourself.’
The phrase was used following the discoveries of graves on the sites of former residential schools across Canada.
In late May 2021, the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops confirmed that the remains of 215 children who were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School had been found at the school site.
Similar burial sites were found at other residential schools, the bodies found numbering in the thousands across Canada. The schools were funded by the federal government’s Department of Indian Affairs and were administered by churches.
The mural was created in response to the discovery of the graves.
Tolnai and Nilson believe the vandalism shows more education and more discussion is needed about the history of residential schools for Indigenous children in Canada.
“It shows how uneducated some people are on this topic,” Tolnai said. “It needs to be talked about more.”
Before the vandalism was discovered on May 10, Tolnai and Nilson were optimistic about the way the mural had been received in the community. The mural had been painted almost eight months before the vandalism appeared.
After the vandalism, the two students made the decision to repair the mural to cover the graffiti. They said removing the mural entirely would not be an appropriate message. Repainting the damaged portions of the mural is expected to take around a day to complete.
The students are also looking into protective coatings in order to minimize the damage if vandalism occurs at the mural in the future.
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