Kitsumkalum’s Health Centre bus used primarily to transport elders and youth groups was the target of needless vandalism Monday night, resulting in more than $2,000 worth in damages.
Kitsumkalum youth were preparing to head out for their first trip to an outdoor spring camp on March 25 when their bus got stuck in the snow on Copper River Road.
When two tow trucks couldn’t pull the van out, it was left overnight to await better-towing conditions in the morning. The youth were then taken to the camp using another vehicle.
But sometime during the night, vandals came across the bus and smashed all the windows on the driver’s side. The vehicle was found covered in pieces of glass the next day.
“It’s just terrible. Times like these when darkness is brought to light… it’s clear that it’s a Kitsumkalum van, it’s a Health Centre van. You can’t miss that writing on the side,” says youth coordinator Brittany McDougall. “Whoever did that was not mistaken in who they were harming.”
While there’s no evidence to suggest this vandalism was racially motivated, McDougall says there needs to be an open dialogue about the possibility.
“It’s important for these things to come into light because there is definitely racism in our community, and it’s not talked about. I don’t know if this is an act of racism, but it’s something that can fuel those questions and trigger some reflection.”
The bus is used regularly to transport elders, and Kitsumkalum’s youth to outdoor activities, including trips to Copper Stables, hiking, basketball, soccer and drum making workshops. These trips are extremely important to Kitsumkalum youth because it gives them new experiences, McDougall says.
“It’s an avenue to break the boundaries of the reserve, to go outside of the reserve and to explore. One community member said to me how important it is to make these opportunities available to the kids so they know they have access past that [Kitsumkalum River] bridge.”
Councillor Troy Sam says the vehicle is insured and costs to repair the damages to the windows should be covered. Another vehicle was rented in the meantime for elders and youth to use, though that money could have been put towards programming instead of repair work.
“You just feel disappointed that someone would do that kind of senseless vandalism on a vehicle,” Sam says.
The incident was reported to police and anyone with information is asked to call the Terrace RCMP at (250)638-7400 or anonymously at Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).