Artist Michelle Loughery speaks about the need for tolerance while her new mural is unveiled on the side of Sutton Group Lakefront Realty Friday.

Artist Michelle Loughery speaks about the need for tolerance while her new mural is unveiled on the side of Sutton Group Lakefront Realty Friday.

Downtown mural promotes tolerance

Vernon’s latest mural celebrates the human spirit’s ability to prevail while urging future generations to avoid past wrongs

Vernon’s latest mural celebrates the human spirit’s ability to prevail while urging future generations to avoid past wrongs.

The mural on the side of Sutton Group Lakefront Realty depicts Canada’s First World War internment camps, but the project has also been embraced by First Nations and Japanese-Canadians.

“We all share the effects of internment,” said Byron Louis, Okanagan Indian Band chief, during a ceremony Friday.

During the First World War, 8,579 so-called enemy aliens, mostly of Ukrainian descent, were placed in internment camps across Canada, including where Vernon’s MacDonald Park now sits. For Japanese-Canadians, they found themselves rounded up during the Second World War while First Nations children were forced into residential schools.

It’s a circle Louis wants to see broken, but he insists the public must be vigilant.

“No matter how far advanced we get, we’re one step away from savagery. It’s so easy to lose rights,” he said.

It’s a message that’s also critical for Michelle Loughery, the lead mural artist.

“Racism is in all of us. Internment is a human flaw,” said Loughery, a descendant of a First World War internee.

“We need to come together and be nicer to people.”

But despite her optimism,  Loughery pointed out that conflict continues around the globe, including recent aggression by Russia.

“Put your hearts out to Ukraine and what this (mural) really means,” she said.

During the First World War, internees were used as forced labour to construct public infrastructure, including Highway 97A at Mara Lake and Highway 6 between Cherryville and Edgewood.

More than 100 detainees died at work camps across the country.

But it wasn’t just men who were impacted.

Entire families were held at the Vernon camp.

“It’s a tragic but little known chapter in Canadian history,” said Andrea Malysh, with the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.

“While images of internment camps, forced labourers, broken families, despair, suffering and prejudice are not commonly associated with the beauty and splendor of the Okanagan Valley, this tragic story and mural does not tarnish Vernon. Rather, they provide a different perspective and understanding of what went into making this city what it is today.”

Malysh has considerable praise for Loughery and her mural.

“It gives meaning to our history in Canada,”  she said.

While there was initially some debate within the Downtown Vernon Association about the mural’s dark theme, ultimately it was decided that there needed to be awareness about internment.

“The right thing to do was acknowledge the past and move forward so it can never happen again,” said Ruth Hoyte, DVA past-president.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

John Pavelich’s 83rd birthday had an added surprise; members of Enderby City Council came by his residence to present him with a Lifetime Civic Merit award Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Enderby resident unwraps Lifetime Civic Merit award on 83rd birthday

John ‘JP’ Pavelich has been a pillar of volunteerism in Enderby since 1967

Spallumcheen councillors (from left) Todd York, Gerry Popoff, Christine LeMaire, John Bakker, Joe Van Tienhoven and Andrew Casson join Mayor Christine Fraser (fourth from left) in helping to proclaim the township open for business with new signage off Highway 97A. (Township of Spallumcheen photo)
Being open for business paying dividends for Spallumcheen

Township wins provincial award, new business and building starts increase

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The Oliver Fire Department had to put out a fire on their own training ground, and it wasn’t one they set. (Facebook)
Vehicles torched at Oliver Fire Department training grounds

This suspected arson comes after the cars were vandalized earlier and suspicious fire the night before

Tavis Stevenson, son of Pam and Bruce Stevenson, founders of The Book Shop on Main St, is the creator of the whimsical animal farm carts seen above The Book Shop. He also painted the book mural in the back alley behind the shop. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
The Book Shop in downtown Penticton is one of those rare gems

The Book Shop, like so many businesses, is wanting to turn the page to the end of this pandemic

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Mathieu Bourgault (13) tries unsuccessfully to deflect past West Kelowna goalie Johnny Derrick during the Warriors’ come-from-behind 7-6 BC Hockey Leaguje pod shootout victory Saturday, May 8, at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Tami Quan Photography)
West Kelowna Warriors rally to edge Salmon Arm in shootout

Warriors overcome three significant deficits to post 7-6 BCHL pod win in Vernon; Silverbacks finish pod 9-7-2-2

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Most Read