Skip to content

Several racist incidents by protesters prompt Okanagan Nation chiefs to demand investigation

The protests are examples of ‘concerning uprising of extreme groups with bigoted agenda’: Chiefs
A Caucasian protester was filmed by students hurling explicits and racist comments during at protest at the Oliver high school Feb. 11. (Youtube)

The Syilx Okanagan Nation Chief Executive Council is calling for swift response and support of regional officials and the RCMP after a series of racially motivated incidents against its members by protesters who allegedly related to the so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’ movement.

The ONA, including PIB Chief Greg Gabriel are asking the federal government and RCMP meet with them to talk about the racist escalation of these convoy ‘freedom fighters’ in light of the incident at the Oliver high school and an incident at the Osoyoos border.

Gabriel wants those who commit these hate crimes investigated.

In a public statement from the Chief council, they say a female Syilx Nation member was verbally assaulted and intimidated by a group of white “Freedom Convoy” protesters at the Osoyoos border crossing at 4 p.m. on Feb. 5.

“It was reported that they screamed racial slurs and derogatory statements as she was making her way to go through the border crossing,” reads the statement. “The perpetrators had singled out the victim based on the visible Indian Residential School decals on her vehicle, as her vehicle and others inched slowly towards the border crossing.”

“These actions and barrage of racism witnessed by the victim were indeed hate crimes. As a visible Indigenous person, we are once again all reminded of the pervasive and brutal intolerance inherent in this movement, but also brings to light the normalization of violence that Syilx people endure on a daily basis” reads the statement.

“It was clear that these demonstrations exhibit the evidence of white extreme supremacy followings in our own backyard.”

“Attacks like those suffered by one of our Syilx nation members on Feb. 5 are beyond intolerable. We are calling on authorities at all levels to take immediate action to reject this Freedom convoy protest that obviously has breached or violated all citizens’ principles of our democracy. These participants or supporters have gone far beyond their actions of letting their governments know of their position on vaccination mandates, to rather that of promoting violence and hate speech.

The Chiefs are also saying the Feb. 11 protest, at South Okanagan Secondary School (SOSS) where several Syilx youths witnessed the Caucasian woman verbally assault an Indo-Canadian student is another example of concerning uprising of extreme groups with a bigoted agenda.

READ MORE: Town of Oliver appalled at so-called freedom convoy protesters

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel said their actions at the Oliver school will have lasting trauma for students there.

“We do not want to lose sight of the racist incident on Friday in front of SOSS nor this incident. These incidents are traumatic for the victim and all our youth that witness such acts. They will have this racist and bigoted memory for life. School grounds and school children are to be “off-limits” from any protesting racist adults. We are extremely concerned for the safety of our women, youth and are calling for an appropriate response.”

Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter says he has been in touch with Gabriel since the school protest.

“Both myself and our Indigenous Policing officer have been in touch with Chief Gabriel since the video was brought to our attention,” Hunter said.

The Oliver woman filmed by students hurling racist comments is facing a $2,300 fine, confirmed RCMP on Wednesday.

According to the Chief’s council the messaging of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” has taken an ugly turn and supporters are now using this to advance their racist and bigoted agenda. We urgently call upon border crossing officials, RCMP, local, federal, and provincial governments to meet with the Chiefs of the Syilx Okanagan Nation.

They believe numerous other hate crimes have gone unreported and amplified through the freedom convoy movement.

Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
Read more