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COLUMN: Displays of hate cannot be ignored

A hate crime in Summerland three years ago is not the only show of intolerance
A mural, sponsored by the Lekhi family, at Summerland Middle School, reflects diversity. In July, 2020, the family’s home in Summerland had been vandalized and hate symbols had been spray-painted. The community came together at the time to show support for the family. (Summerland Review file photo)

Three years ago, on the night of July 13 to 14, 2020, the home of an Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was vandalized. Windows were broken and symbols, including swastikas, were spray-painted on the walls.

This incident left the community stunned. These were people who had lived in the community for many years and had been in their home for three decades. They are our neighbours and our friends, and have long been held in high regard in our community.

During this time, the family showed an amazing level of grace and dignity as they coped with the aftermath of a hate crime.

The community also responded swiftly. Many in Summerland contributed money to help the family repair the damages to their home. Some offered their professional services to clean up the property.

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Days after the incident, hundreds formed a parade and drove past the family’s home. Vehicles displayed signs which read, “You are loved,” “We are all family” and “Hate has no home in Summerland.”

A GoFundMe campaign was set up to help the family repair the damage and repaint their home. The initial goal was to raise $2,500. The goal was quickly surpassed and a new figure of $10,000 was set. The campaign brought in more than $18,000 in donations.

The family later used some of the excess funds raised for the cleanup and repainting to set up a mural on the wall of Summerland Middle School. The mural shows seven diverse faces and has the words, “You are important and you belong.”

The only thing marring the evening parade was the presence of one man, parked along the parade route, displaying a Confederate battle flag. The flag, associated with the South in the American Civil War in the 1860s, is a symbol associated with white supremacy and racism.

Still, despite this flag, the tone in the community was positive and optimistic. Something terrible had happened, but it would not be tolerated.

The community’s response to a display of hate was inspiring. People had come together to stand up against hate and to show support for a family.

However, in the years following this act of vandalism, there have been other disturbing incidents in this community and beyond.

Since the 2020 incident, I have also reported on shows of hate including the vandalism of a Truth and Reconciliation mural, the spray-painting of a racial slur at the high school and the removal of a pride flag from a church in the community. The most recent of these happened less than two weeks ago.

In each case, one or more people chose to make their intolerance visible.

The vandalism in 2020 and the subsequent displays of hate cannot be dismissed as ignorance. The swastika and the Confederate battle flag, both displayed in 2020, are strongly associated with white supremacy and intolerance. The Every Child Matters slogan on the mural and the pride flag are both easily identifiable symbols. Defacing or removing them is a deliberate act. The same is true of showing a racial slur.

The response to the vandalism in 2020 showed the best of this community. The sense of shock and outrage, as well as the show of support for the family, demonstrated a spirit of care and compassion.

Other displays of hate need to be treated with the same level of intensity. The opposition to vandalism, graffiti or other shows of intolerance must be just as strong as it was in the summer of 2020.

Hate is crouching at our door. It cannot be allowed to take up residence among us.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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