Ottawa police are investigating after graffiti was splattered over a three-storey Indigenous mural at Algonquin College on Tuesday evening.
At about 8:26 p.m. Tuesday, police say a man entered the college’s C Building carrying a plastic bag and what appeared to be a mop.
The suspect then defaced the mural by splattering paint on it, according to officers.
Ron Deganadus McLester, Algonquin College’s vice-president of truth, reconciliation and Indigenization, told Global News that he was driving to work when he got a call asking him to meet with security regarding the vandalism.
“We really quickly turned our attention to, how do we make this a teaching tool?”
Deganadus McLester said the college will hold a solidarity event in response to the incident.
“We will come together to show whomever did this, and anybody who thinks about doing it in the future, that it doesn’t faze us one bit,” he said. “In fact, it only ignites a fire that helps to encourage us to continue on this work, and it uncovers the fact that there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Deganadus McLester also told Global News that he won’t cover up the vandalism until it is fixed, which could be sometime in February.
“I’m advocating that we don’t cover it up,” he said. “The Indigenous experience has largely been hidden, often on purpose, and…I won’t contribute to hiding it.”
The college’s mural tells the creation story of many Indigenous Peoples — of the wildlife, forests and land of Turtle Island.
“This mural is very special to our college,” Claude Brulé, Algonquin College’s president and CEO, said in a letter addressed to colleagues and learners.
“It took them seven months to complete and was created in consultation with our learners and Indigenous elders.”
“I want you to know that we take this incident very seriously — it is a violation of the values of our college, and it is especially hurtful to those Indigenous learners and employees who rightfully see this as a violation of their culture,” Brulé wrote.
The suspect is described as a heavyset, clean-shaven man who stands between five feet eight inches and five feet 10 inches tall. According to police, he was wearing a black or dark brown jacket with a fur-trimmed hood, black or dark blue pants, faded leather boots with striped yellow shoelaces and a black backpack.
Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Ali Toghrol at 613-236-1222, ext. 5453, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.