A downtown piece of art commemorating Indigenous culture has been defaced.
Done in collaboration with Eclectic Café and Indigenous art collective Windigo Army earlier this year, the building-side mural at the corner of Mississaga and Andrew streets depicts five Indigenous children dancing with a Haudenosaunee Smoke Dancer.
At the time it was completed, Windigo Army said the mural showcases how “the revival of our culture is possible through sheer will and determination of the current and next generations.”
Earlier this week, however, café owner Melanie Robinson found the artwork had been defaced with orange spray paint and obscenities.
Robinson believes the vandalism was motivated by hate.
“When (Windigo Army) and I collaborated on this piece, it was to show love, history and a positive side of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in our community,” she told OrilliaMatters. “Eclectic Café is and always will be a place for all to feel welcome, loved and seen. This is clearly a hate crime and, in my opinion, a person who is clearly uneducated in Canadian history.”
Orillia OPP Const. Brett Boniface encouraged residents to report instances of graffiti and vandalism to police.
“Graffiti and vandalism have no place in our community, especially when it is hate motivated,” he said. “Incidents should be reported to police, as police do track these incidents and do make all attempts to arrest and charge those persons who are found to be causing mischief.”
Boniface said both the community mobilization unit and community street crime unit are “tracking and attempting to find viable solutions to” graffiti and vandalism.
Although instances of vandalism and graffiti increase in Orillia through the summer, he said, the OPP has noticed more of them being motivated by hate.
“We do notice a spike in Orillia every summer of vandalism related to spray-painting and tagging,” Boniface said. “We've had a lot more tagging that would be considered hateful within the last six months than what we've had in previous years.”