One week after a three-storey Indigenous mural at Ottawa’s Algonquin College was defaced with paint, the school says students, staff and community members will gather for a healing ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.
Ron Deganadus McLester, the college’s vice-president of truth, reconciliation and Indigenization, is hosting the ceremony, which will include a prayer from an elder and Indigenous drumming and dance, according to a news release issued by the school.
“The event will be held in the shadow of the defaced mural, which has been left visible in an effort to acknowledge the pain it has caused Indigenous learners and employees at the college, as well as the broader community,” the release said.
Ottawa police said last week that the vandalism of the mural happened on Jan. 28. The force’s recently re-established hate crime unit opened an investigation into the incident and released photos of the suspect for whom they were searching.
Police announced on Saturday evening that officers had made an arrest that day at Algonquin College and charged a 32-year-old man with one count of mischief over $5,000 in connection with the defaced mural.
Investigators have described the vandalism as “hate-motivated mischief” and, in announcing the arrest, noted that “any evidence to support hate motivation is presented during sentencing.”
Algonquin College has said the mural is special because it tells the creation story of many Indigenous Peoples — of the wildlife, forests and land of Turtle Island.
The mural took seven months to complete, according to the school.
“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,” McLester told Global News on Thursday.
“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.”
The healing ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m., and the college says anyone is welcome to attend. The gathering will take place in the DARE District at 1385 Woodroffe Ave.
“The college hopes that in holding this event, it will take a divisive act and use it to bring the community together to find strength and healing,” the school’s news release said.
Police say the hate crime unit continues to investigate the incident.
-With a file from Daina Goldfinger