'VERY DISAPPOINTING': Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Chief calls out damage after Reconciliation Road sign riddled with bullets

·3 min read

Just months after a southern Manitoba road was renamed in an act of reconciliation, that street’s road sign has been riddled with bullets, and some are wondering if those shots fired were an act of racism.

“My only conclusion can be that this is racism,” Brokenhead Ojibway Nation (BON) Chief Gordon Bluesky said about the recent discovery of multiple bullet holes in the Reconciliation Road street sign in the RM of St. Clements, north of Winnipeg, and just south of BON.

“No other signs are shot up on Highway 59, so if no other signs are shot up, than what else could someone think this is?”

The sign that was damaged was located on a gravel road, which can be seen when travelling on Highway 59 in St. Clements near the community of Libau, and which had been named Colonization Road for many years.

Last November, the street name was changed to Reconciliation Road, and a ceremony was held to unveil the new street sign.

The decision to change the name came after several BON representatives pushed St. Clements council to make the change, because the previous name could be traumatizing for community members forced to drive through the area when they travelled to Winnipeg or other communities south of BON.

“Many people had had enough of seeing that sign, it was just outside of our reserve, so it was hard to avoid it,” Bluesky said.

He said the recent vandalism to the sign is “very disappointing” because of all the work that went into getting the name changed, and the new sign erected.

“It’s disappointing considering the work that went into building that relationship between the previous Chief and council and St. Clements, and because of all the work our band members did initially to bring this issue to light,” Bluesky said.

He was also concerned that news of the damage, which first came to light in a Facebook post by Bluesky on Friday, could be a trigger, and lead to trauma for some in his community.

“They just changed the name, so I hope this isn’t something where people are now re-traumatized by this news,” he said.

Bluesky said the damage to the Reconciliation Road sign shows there is still “a lot of work to do” to move towards reconciliation in Canada, and here in Manitoba.

“Our people have shown that we are resilient, but history has shown that we have been through a lot, and a lot that hasn’t been rectified,” Bluesky said. “We are living in this state of trauma, and collectively as a society we haven’t fully and properly recognized and properly addressed it, so it is an ongoing thing.”

The Chief is commending the RM of St. Clements for taking fast action to replace the sign, as the damaged sign was taken down on Saturday morning, and has already been replaced with a brand new sign.

In a statement to the Winnipeg Sun, St. Clements CAO Deepak Joshi said that the RM’s council and administration are concerned about the damage done to the sign, and have taken a complaint to local RCMP.

“The RM of St. Clements can assure you that it takes these types of vandalism very seriously and have already contacted the RCMP on the details of the incident,” Joshi said.

“We will continue to involve the necessary authorities when we become aware of these incidents.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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