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Reconciliation Bridge signs defaced amid Calgary anti-racism movement

Recent vandalism of a sign on Calgary’s Reconciliation Bridge isn’t taking away from the underlying anti-racism movement in the city.

Elder Earnie Poundmaker, Cultural Coordinator at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre, said systemic racism is something he’s always been aware of. 

“For myself personally, it’s just an everyday fact of life being Indigenous and being subjected to racial slurs,” said Poundmaker.

The former Langevin Bridge, at 4 Street NE and Riverfront Avenue SE, was renamed Reconciliation Bridge back in 2017. A ceremony was held in 2018 for the official renaming.

It was renamed because its prior namesake Hector Langevin was involved in the set up of the residential school system.

Over the last two months several anti-racism and allyship rallies have been held across the city. 

While the rallies have sparked deep conversations within the city and the Calgary Police Services, not everyone is showing their support.

On July 7, a social media maven Crackmacs was sent a DM about the signs on Reconciliation Bridge being spray painted red.

Message sent through CRACKMACS

Deep systemic racism discussions in Calgary

July 8 marked the second day of a public consultation on racism where Calgarians took to the floor and expressed their concerns.

Many people expressed their frustration with the city, and said change needs to happen now. 

“You don’t need to do any more of these hearings. You need to go and do your job because we’re exhausted,” said speaker Vanessa Ortiz.

Poundmaker said he has been keeping up with the discussions and listened in on the recent public consultation.

“It’s a work in progress, but I think it’s definitely a wake-up call to the people in this community about what’s been going on to minorities in this community,” he said.

Many topics, one movement

Chants like “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace,” have been heard across the city for more than a month. The rallies were spurred by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police.

Since the end of May, there have been more than 10 anti-racism protests, all with a similar message.

On June 3, hundreds of Calgarians came together to voice their concerns about police brutality and systemic racism.

Similar protests around the world sparked the defund the police movement, which has generated discussion within the Calgary Police Service. 

On June 19, a rally was held, pushing for policy reform around racism in schools.

Shuwan Porter, founder and CEO of the United Black People’s Allyship said she wanted the CBE to be held accountable for not hiring minorities. They also need to address education on Black history. 

Poundmaker said he recalls his education being very inadequate when it came to representing Indigenous people. 

“The curriculum was very one sided, very brief when it came to talking about Indigenous people in our history. It’s a very misrepresentational kind of experience in terms of education,” he said. 

Though frustrating, Poundmaker said he isn’t concerning himself with the recent vandalism. It can’t take away from the progress being made.

“It’s cowardly people who do these things, that can’t come and speak out in these public hearings in public forums,” he said.

“They hide behind their bigotry and their racist attitudes.”