North Shuswap Anti-racism Day is being held on February 22, in part to support Scotch Creek resident Mary Stewart who since last summer has posted 22 signs on her property speaking out against racism, all of which were torn down. (Contributed)

North Shuswap Anti-racism Day is being held on February 22, in part to support Scotch Creek resident Mary Stewart who since last summer has posted 22 signs on her property speaking out against racism, all of which were torn down. (Contributed)

‘They’re real cowards.’ Vandals fail to deter Shuswap senior from speaking out against racism

Community members to make amends for 22 damaged signs with North Shuswap Anti-racism Day

Repeated vandalism targeting Mary Stewart’s public anti-racist message has only made her more determined.

Last summer, the 70-old resident of Scotch Creek began posting signs supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement at the end of her property along Squilax-Anglemont Road.

Every sign she posted, 22 in total, was torn down, most damaged in the process. One had a prohibitory symbol (circle with a line through it) spray painted over it. Another was stolen and later returned with the words, “Burn, Loot, Murder” written on it.

In the process, it became obvious to Stewart that not everyone in the North Shuswap shared her beliefs.

“Several people thought I should be really careful and maybe I should stop putting the signs up, but I just couldn’t not do it,” said Stewart. “I just feel that racists… they don’t really come out and show themselves. They’re real cowards. So I wasn’t really that afraid.”

Stewart was compelled to put up her first sign by the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd in the U.S. resulting from an altercation with police. Floyd’s death prompted widespread protests and an uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement across North America.

Read more: Salmon Arm demonstrators show unity with Black Lives Matter movement

Read more: ‘Am I racist?’ sign in Shuswap part of B.C. campaign to combat racism

“The initial sign went up in solidarity with the people that were saying, ‘we care and we don’t agree with racism,’” said Stewart, whose first sign lasted for about a week.

Stewart’s third sign was torn down twice on July 15. The second time, she saw the person doing it and reported his licence plate to police. She shared the encounter on Facebook, stating a man in his 30s quickly got back in his truck and drove off.

“I found the sign right where he had been standing. The big strong racist had broken the flimsy piece of old plywood in half,” wrote Stewart.

A friend, Nancy Parkinson, began helping Stewart. The two made replacement signs (no longer out of plywood). Inevitably, those too were taken down. Though initially angered by this, the two quickly became determined.

“We’ll just keep doing this until we can’t do it anymore,” said Stewart, noting how when she was putting one sign up, a guy behind the wheel of a logging truck gave her the finger.

“It’s pretty disheartening to know for sure that this kind of racism exists and is really out there in our community. We won’t give up,” commented Stewart on the incident on Facebook.

With February being Black History Month, and the 24th being Pink Shirt (anti-bullying) Day, Stewart’s friends decided to make amends for the 22 destroyed signs by putting up signs of their own on Feb.22 for their new creation North Shuswap Anti-racism day.

“Mary’s friends have followed this story and wanted to support her efforts,” commented Larissa Lutjen in an email to the Observer. “They feel that not only is the trespassing, vandalism and lack of police interest upsetting, but the destruction of these signs is a shameful display of intolerance, at best, and outright racism at the worst.”

Lutjen welcomed all North Shuswap residents to participate.

A retired elementary school teacher, Stewart said she would continue to keep a sign speaking out against racism posted at the foot of her driveway. She stressed that education and open discussion are key to addressing the matter.

“We need to talk about it, we need to bring it out and we need to educate and not think we can bury it because it can’t be buried,” said Stewart.

@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

racismShuswap Lake

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Penticton’s Law Courts.	(File)
Penticton beach attacker to serve two more years behind bars

Thomas Kruger-Allen was sentenced in a Penticton court on Friday

Premier John Horgan looks on during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Premier touches on protest, housing controversy in Penticton

Protesters have said they plan to go on despite police warning

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is offering home compost bins at reduced prices until March 25. (Contributed)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen offers compost bins at wholesale costs

Pricing offer at participating stores in place until March 25

About 50 people gathered Friday, March 5, 2021 in Penticton to protest city council’s decision to close a temporary winter shelter. (Jesse Day - Western News)
WATCH: Protest over Penticton shelter draws large crowd

People are gathering in Gyro Park to protest the closure of a winter shelter

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Paramjit Bogarh, connected to the murder of his wife in Vernon 35 years ago, has been relerased on full parole, one year after he was sentenced to five years in prison for accessory after the fact. (Contributed)
Full parole for ex-Okanagan man who helped wife’s alleged killer escape

Paramjit Bogarh pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after helping brother flee Canada

The Princeton Traditional Music Festival, normally held in August, was denied a grant due to COVID. (File photo)
COVID makes some of the 2021 grant decisions for Princeton council

Municipality doles out funds while striving to meet policy

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Most Read