The Lloydminster & Vermilion For Equity group held a rally on Saturday in Vermilion, marching from Town Hall to the RCMP detachment, then to outside a resident’s home to protest messages “full of hate” displayed in their yard.
As of Monday, the Town of Vermilion released a statement saying they received a number of comments about the “unsightly signs” and they issued an order to the property owner under Nuisance Bylaw #7-87.
“Council has a bylaw — the process is in place. Administration is addressing this and if people are concerned about hate speech or racism they can call the RCMP, and if it’s a bylaw issue they can phone the town,” said Mayor Caroline McAuley who didn’t want to comment further.
The organizer of the rally expressed some satisfaction in the town’s response.
“It’s a good response – I’m somewhat pleased that they did address the issue,” said Lloydminster and Vermilion For Equity co-founder Tigra Campbell.
“I would have also liked to see the statement denounce racism in the community.”
Approximately 15 people attended the rally, including residents from Vermilion, Lloydminster, Edmonton, and Calgary. Two members of the Vermilion RCMP did make an appearance in order to monitor and ensure public safety.
Over 20 signs have varying messages – a few reading, ‘stop white hate, RCMP suck, and Henshaw eat sh**.’
Campbell recently wrote the mayor an email expressing her distaste for these messages and asked what steps were being taken to address them. She did receive a response saying the mayor was aware and they were seeing what they could do to rectify the issue with the RCMP.
McAuley also commented during a council meeting that they were looking into the “decorative signage” issue.
Campbell wrote another email with concerns about McAuley’s response in council, saying that the resident’s rights and freedom of speech were brought up, but the concerns for black, indigenous, or people of colour were not.
“Multiple people have been ripping signs down off the resident’s tree. I was made aware that the town did issue a nuisance ticket on the condition of their yard that made them remove the signs with the racial slurs,” said Campbell.
Co-founder, Brad Gallamore, said the signs had been taken down, but only for a day before new ones could be seen.
Neither Campbell nor Gallamore know the resident personally, but said attempts to have them removed through the resident’s friends and family had been unsuccessful.
“The signs are blatant racism. They’ve used the ‘N’ word and spoke against Asian people – they are full of hate, they are disgusting,” said Gallamore.
“In my opinion, one person’s freedom of expression does not trump the trauma from people having to walk by that. Obviously, there needs to be more because whatever was done before was not a deterrent…In 2017, a $1,500 ticket was issued.”
However, questions about the property owner’s mental health are also arising and many locals have expressed concern on community pages on social media that drawing this sort of attention outside his house could provoke him instead of stop the messages.
If other residents had visible signs of racism, Gallamore said they would send letters to the mayor demanding action, and protest those as well. He said the Lloydminster & Vermilion For Equity (LVFE) also focuses on addiction services and mental health services.
“There are many members in our group who struggle with addiction,” said Gallamore.
“We are fully aware that indigenous and black populations deal with racism and inter-generational trauma that can lead to addiction.”
She said the LVFE group is inter-sectional including, but not limited to, standing for anything to do with anti-racism and discrimination, diversity and inclusion, the LGTBQ2S+ movement, the trans community, as well as missing and murdered indigenous women and men.
When asked how those groups are tied together, Campbell said, “Through systemic racism and discrimination. I think the systemic racism part is brought in through the judicial system itself.
“I think that the lack of response from the town is multi-faceted a part due to systemic racism, and a part through subconscious bias through not doing anti-racist or cultural sensitivity work that is ongoing,” she said.
Campbell said that even though she is not a resident of Vermilion, that another member holds the group’s address there and there are four other members in the municipality.
The group began hosting weekly round table sessions outdoors last summer, and hosts a book club and virtual cooking series with cultural cuisine, are looking to initiate a diversity or anti-racism workshop, but currently have no plans for another rally.
“This rally definitely brought awareness to the issues at hand and that was our goal,” said Campbell.