Cowichan leaders speak out against racism and discrimination

Here’s a list of public statements in support of Cowichan Tribes.

Since Cowichan Tribes disclosed its case counts of COVID-19, its members and other Indigenous people have experienced an increase in racism and discrimination. This is a list, in no particular order, of public statements in support of Cowichan Tribes and denouncing racism. Send me an email if you see a statement that should be added to the list. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. provincial health officer

Dr. Henry said she was “saddened and disturbed” to hear reports of discrimination and racism against First Nations people, and specifically mentioned members of Cowichan Tribes as targets of that discrimination. “This type of racism cannot be tolerated,” she said. Watch the video

The Cowichan Leadership Team

“The news that Cowichan Tribes members have COVID cases hit us hard. We are worried about the elders and their families. We are saddened by the effect this virus has on community members: a reminder of times when disease wiped out Indigenous communities and when movement on and off reserve was controlled. It is also a reminder that to this day settlers may treat Indigenous peoples as though they do not belong on their own land.” Read more

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Signed by: 

  • Chief William Seymour, Cowichan Tribes
  • Sonia Furstenau, MLA
  • Mayor Michelle Staples, Duncan
  • Mayor Al Siebring, North Cowichan
  • Dr. Shannon Waters, Island Health
  • Alistair MacGregor, MP
  • Insp. Chris Bear, RCMP
  • Candace Spilsbury, Cowichan Valley School District board chair
  • Deborah Saucier, president of Vancouver Island University
  • Mayor Bob Day, Town of Lake Cowichan
  • Aaron Stone, mayor of the Town of Ladysmith and chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District board

Stuart Pagaduan, Coast Salish artist

Pagaduan made an artistic statement in support of the Cowichan Tribes community. In a Facebook post, Pagaduan writes, “We are not alone Cowichan. 1,572 shares in one day!! Many of you took the time to say racism will not be tolerated. This is proof that people in our community will stand with us in difficult times, especially when we have no energy or will to push back. It also demonstrates that one person can make a difference and I challenge you to rise above this with dignity and love rather than hate and bitterness. I’m not done. Maybe I challenge all local businesses to hang this poster in their window??”

Pagaduan’s design has been printed on T-shirts and on magnets with proceeds going to Cowichan Tribes.  

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples

“A reminder to everyone that racism and racist beliefs have no place in the situation facing our community or any other for that matter.” Read more.

The Cowichan Leadership Team

Members of the Cowichan Leadership Team shared video messages in support of Cowichan Tribes. Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples, Dr. Shannon Waters with Island Health, RCMP Insp. Chris Bear, VIU president Deborah Saucier, school board chair Candace Spilsbury, MP Alistair MacGregor, North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, Lake Cowichan Mayor Bob Day, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, MLA Sonia Furstenau and Cowichan Tribes councillor Stephanie Atleo contributed to the video. 

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring

“Folks, we are better than this. And it has to stop.  This virus is no respector of persons or of ‘race.’ It does not discriminate. And neither should we. Please, if you see this kind of chatter on social media – or if you hear it in person – please call it out for what it is.” Read more.

Ladysmith mayor and CVRD board chair Aaron Stone

“There is no place for racism in our communities. This is not a time to divide, but a time to come together in support of each other.” Read more. 

Simone Williams-Horne, Coast Salish artist

“With the effects of COVID now reaching my home community of Cowichan and surrounding communities, it is disheartening to hear of the hardship that some of my family, friends and relatives are facing now. In the forms of racism, blame, shame and discrimination. I wanted to show support to my home community in the best way I could, from across the water, through my art.” Read more and see the artwork. 

First Nations Health Authority and Island Health CEOs

“We are deeply saddened by the racist commentary which has arisen within the community in response to the hardship being experienced by Cowichan Tribes. First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Island Health strongly condemn these inappropriate actions. We commit to ensuring this racism has no place in our support for Cowichan Tribes.” Read more. 

Signed by Richard Jock, CEO of the FNHA and Kathy MacNeil, president and CEO of Island Health. 

Cowichan Valley Division of Family Practice and others

“We are deeply disturbed by the reports of Indigenous-specific racism in our community following the recent announcement of a Shelter in Place Order by Cowichan Tribes leadership.” Read more. 

Signed by: 

  • Dr. Bryan Bass and Dr. Jan Malherbe, board co-chairs, Cowichan Valley Division of Family Practice
  • Dr. Tracey Stephenson, Dr. Brendan O’Malley, Dr. Christiaan Avenant, Dr. Susan Barr; executive committee of Cowichan District Medical Society
  • Brennan MacDonald, regional executive director for Vancouver Island, First Nations Health Authority
  • Emma James and Dr. Maki Ikemura, Island Health Cowichan Valley director and medical director
  • Alice Gelpke and Dr. David Robertson, Island Health Cowichan Valley executive director and executive medical director
  • Dr. Shannon Waters, Island Health medical health officer, Cowichan region

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller

Miller denounced racist actions against members of Cowichan Tribes as “disgusting” and “unacceptable” at an Ottawa news conference, according to reporting by the Canadian Press. 

The BC Assembly of First Nations 

“The BC Assembly of First Nations condemns the recent harmful racist commentary expressed in response to the COVID-19 breakout within the Cowichan Tribes on Vancouver Island.” Read more. 

Cowichan Valley Quakers

“Cowichan Valley Quakers join with Cowichan Tribes, government leaders, and many others in speaking out against targeted racism in the last few weeks towards Cowichan Tribes members. We can and must do better than this. We stand united against racism and are grateful to live on this land that has been cared for by Coast Salish peoples for millennia.”

City of Duncan council

The City of Duncan council meeting on Jan. 18 opened with statements by council members in support of Cowichan Tribes and against descrimination its members have faced. Mayor Michelle Staples, Coun. Tom Duncan, Coun. Stacy Middlemiss, Coun. Garry Bruce, Coun. Carol Newington and Coun. Jenni Capps gave statements. Watch the video. [end]

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