Propaganda clippings promoting three websites linked to white supremacy and the alt-right movement were littered in front of some North Okanagan schools this week.
The small clippings on white paper, which were hand-cut and just a few inches long, were scattered sometime early Wednesday, during Orange Shirt Day, and were immediately denounced by local officials.
School District 22 superintendent Joe Rogers said most of the clippings, which he called offensive material, were picked up by parents and staff prior to school starting.
“It is very disturbing that white supremacist website information was distributed on the streets around some of our schools,” said Rogers.
The superintendent told Global News that he was aware of four schools having the clippings littered near them.
That it happened on Orange Shirt Day wasn’t surprising to Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis.
“It’s not the first incident of this,” said Louis, adding he believes the first occurrence happened in 2002.
He also said the timing happened “because they’re trying to maximize whatever publicity they’re going to get.”
Louis strongly believes the majority of area residents are against racism, “but there are, and always will be, incidents of this nature. And it’s how we deal with it that how it’s going to be addressed.”
He said continuing education is needed, stating “one thing about bigotry and racism is that they’re based on ignorance. Education is so important. There are so many people who have good minds and don’t support that, so those are the ones we need to turn to.”
Among those denouncing the clippings was Vernon’s mayor.
“I am disheartened and deeply sorry about the events that took place in our community yesterday, with the distribution of hundreds of notes linked to racist propaganda and a white supremacist website,” said Victor Cumming.
“Even more concerning is that these notes were strewn about near schools – a place where children and families are meant to feel safe and supported.”
The mayor thanked parents and school district staff who found the notes and “took swift action to clean up and dispose of them, stifling the spread of their messaging. My gratitude runs deep for your immediate response to a despicable act that has had far-reaching impact.”
The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce also weighed in.
President Krystin Kempton said the chamber was “saddened to learn of racist material being circulated at local schools, particularly on Orange Shirt Day, when we acknowledge the impact residential schools have had on our Indigenous friends and neighbours.”
Kempton added “we know Greater Vernon to be a caring, open and compassionate community, and we are confident these actions do not represent the majority of residents.
“That said, we must all reflect on what has occurred and be clear that such actions are not acceptable. Racism will not be tolerated in workplaces, schools, sports fields or anywhere.”
In 2016, a similar incident happened. Then, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said based on their findings, the clippings did not constitute an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.
“The flyers do not carry any overt message targeting any specific group or individuals,” police said in 2016, “but do list various websites which may represent extremist groups and individuals.”
On Thursday, police issued a press release about the clippings, stating several leaflets were turned over to them and that an investigation is underway.
“We share the concerns of the community about the content of the material and specifically the manner in which it has been distributed,” said Const. Chris Terleski.
“Regardless of the outcome, we want to draw attention to the overwhelming, clear and direct response by our community in light of this event. There is no place for hatred of any form, for anyone, and it will not be tolerated.”
Police also confirmed that no suspects were identified in the 2016 incident.
Global News is not listing the websites posted on the clippings.
— With files from Megan Turcato.