RCMP in Hope, B.C. are investigating what’s being described as an act of hate targeting the LGBTQ2 community that damaged a critical local community resource.
Firefighters were called to the Hope Community Services head office around 3 a.m. Thursday, where someone had smashed in the front window and set a fire trying to burn a Pride flag hanging prominently inside, Upper Fraser RCMP said.
Not far away, the city’s brand-new Pride crosswalk — just installed Wednesday — was defaced with homophobic slurs.
“Definitely targeted, definitely towards the Pride community of Hope, and just overly disrespectful,” RCMP Sgt. Mike Sargent told Global News.
“This type of hate, these types of actions are not supported and are not welcome in the community.”
Robin Wells, acting executive director for Hope Community Services, said ironically the Pride flag suffered minimal damage. However, the non-profit’s headquarters suffered considerable smoke and water damage and will closed at least until next week.
Wells said the organization will also be on the hook for at least a $2,500-deductible — money that will come out of their social services.
“We also run the food bank, so all the cost to repair this and everything will also be money from the food bank we don’t have now,” she said.
“It’s just not us that you hurt, you hurt the whole community of Hope. We’re trying to help everybody.”
Fortunately, she said no one was hurt and the entire building did not burn down.
June 1 marked the kickoff of Hope’s first ever Pride Festival according to Megan te Boekhorst, a founding member of the Hope Pride Committee.
The group was expecting some pushback, she said, but was disheartened someone had turned to violence.
She said the incident shows that Pride remains a critical protest for the rights of LGBTQ2 people, and how Canada is not immune from the attacks on queer rights making headlines in the United States.
“It’s been here for a long time. The rise in anti-trans and homophobic rhetoric in our country is growing exponentially, and as it grows, we’re seeing fewer and fewer allies feeling confident in stepping up,” she said.
“This idea that comes from not only companies but municipalities and other leaders in our society of wanting to remain neutral or stay out of this political idea of it — that’s not possible.
“There is no such thing as neutrality when it comes to oppression, because this is what neutrality in the face of oppression leads to — it leads to violence.”
While te Boekhorst said the incident stirred feelings of fear and anger, they were overwhelmed by the way the community rallied in response.
Youth had spearheaded the creation of the Pride crosswalk, installed Wednesday five years after it was approved in 2019 but delayed by the pandemic, and it was local high school students who stepped up first thing Thursday to repaint it and remove the offensive graffiti.
“They were out there at a quarter to nine this morning,” she said. “To see youth coming out in droves to repaint and say that this hate is not okay in our community — it’s allowed the community to move from this place of fear and anger and pain.
“To remembering that we have come so far, and that there is community support for us and we are not alone, and this will not stop our our celebration and our joy.”
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact Hope RCMP.
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