Three Winnipeg buildings have been vandalized with red spray paint, apparently in connection with recent anti-pipeline rail blockades and protests.
The Manitoba RCMP headquarters on Portage Avenue, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal’s constituency office were all struck overnight Tuesday.
Messages written on the RCMP building included, "Shut down Canada," "Land back," and "No more." The statements appear to echo support of the Wet’suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their opposition to a pipeline project in northern British Columbia.
The monument and plaque in front of the RCMP headquarters were also splashed with red paint.
"'Anger' is the right word to use about the damage to a monument," RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre said Wednesday.
The marker was erected in 1998, in memory of Manitoba RCMP members who lost their lives in the line of duty, and cost nearly $100,000 in employee-raised funds, Manaigre said.
"We can understand that there is some anger and frustration out there, but the RCMP has always been committed to the right of peaceful protest," he said. "Hopefully, we can resolve the issues."
Karl Olafson, who passed by the graffiti this morning, said vandalism is not the right approach.
"If they’re looking to get people on their side, they’re absolutely going about it the wrong way," he said. "As a proud Canadian, I think it’s absolutely disgraceful."
Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen, speaking to reporters at a police funding announcement Wednesday in Winnipeg, denounced the vandalism, calling it "beyond unfortunate."
"Obviously, there’s a lot of passion on all sides of this discussion. Hopefully, calmer heads will prevail (and) we will see some leadership out of the federal government to try to resolve these issues," Cullen said when asked about the cross-country protests.
Messages including "You fail us," "Stolen land," and "Do better," were sprayed on the front of Vandal’s office.
"I did have protesters there several weeks ago," he told reporters in Ottawa. "I told them the door was always open to continue dialogue, and when I get back, I would like to follow that up."
Bridgette Hoshont’omba of the Choctaw Nation, who has been boosting the voices of Indigenous protesters in Canada, said the graffiti was done by people who think they're being ignored.
"Indigenous people are so often mistreated instead of being heard, so when no one is willing to listen, then people look for other ways to get the point across," she said.
"It’s a way to take up space in the public eye. I think that’s the point, because now people like Dan Vandal will have to pay attention."
John Young, chief executive officer of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, said the graffiti — including the question: "Is this the future you want?" — was a surprise sight Wednesday morning.
"But, the museum recognizes that Canada is struggling with a spectrum of issues of national importance, including Indigenous issues and land rights," he said. "These are important issues for all people in Canada, and I think this is an important opportunity to reflect on our mandate to cultivate dialogue and reflection on issues like this."
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs released a statement calling for an end to such vandalism, saying it will only divide citizens and "perpetuate the racism that we are encountering today."
David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, also released a statement, saying: "To have a site dedicated to people who have fallen, including Indigenous officer Const. Dennis Strongquill, vandalized, is reprehensible and cowardly, at best."
Strongquill was shot to death while on-duty in December 2001.
— with files from Dylan Robertson and Larry Kusch
Updated on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 5:55 PM CST: Adds comment from Manitoba Justice minister.