‘It’s violence’: Racial slur added to Summerland Secondary School sign



A ‘Welcome Back’ sign at Summerland Secondary School was rearranged to add a racial slur over the weekend.

Former Summerland Mayor Toni Boot discovered the altered sign Sunday morning and immediately reported it to RCMP and School District 67 staff.

“It wasn’t shocking because racism is what it is. But it was just like a punch to my stomach,” said Boot.

“The whole community should be a place, the school should be a place, where students regardless of who they are, or what they look like, or what they believe, should feel safe. And having something like that, welcoming them back to school, it’s violence, and it’s something that there are people working against, but racism is a bit insidious.”

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Boot, who grew up in Summerland and served as the community’s first Black mayor from 2018 to 2022, says she has dealt with racism countless times.

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She added that she is now in a position where she feels comfortable to speak out against it.

“It’s part of this community, and probably part of every community in British Columbia. It’s not just directed, I mean, this particular slur was but it’s not always directed at Black people. It can be directed at anyone,” said Boot.

“That’s why I don’t find it shocking because I’ve experienced it countless times. And it still is offensive and hurtful.”

The slur has since been removed from the sign.

School District 67 superintendent, Todd Manuel, also spoke out following the incident and said officials are taking this very seriously.

“Obviously really hurtful to see that kind of language anywhere and particularly hurtful for us to see it on one of our schools,” said Manuel.

“Inclusive school environments and equity are things that we’re very serious about and that we are intentional about. Our educators and our students will feel hurt by this type of messaging as well.”

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Manuel went on to say that school district staff will continue to work ‘extremely’ hard to ensure all students feel welcome within the school communities.

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“Perhaps some people don’t realize the significant impact that it can have, but I heard it described as not just hateful but even violent in terms of the impact it can have on people. So, we’re really disturbed to see that kind of message,” said Manuel.

“We also know that we need to move forward and acknowledge that our educators work extremely hard to welcome all students and have them all feel included and welcomed in our school communities. We’ll continue to focus on that as we move forward from this really unfortunate incident.”

The School District plans to work closely with the District of Summerland and RCMP as well as other community partners moving forward.

“It’s intolerable. We’ve had a few incidents like this in recent weeks and months, and I think it’s part of a larger trend we’re seeing across the country and it’s not representative of the kind of community Summerland is,” said Summerland Mayor Doug Holmes.

“I know there have been incidents in the past that haven’t been reported. We need to be reporting everything we need, we need the RCMP to be investigating and certainly laying charges. That’s part of the solution part.”

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Although the racial slur was quickly removed, Boot believes that it is nowhere near the resolution that needs to happen.

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“A number of people have approached me and said here we go again. This is such a great place to live, I went away to school and worked, and I came back, and raised my kids here. I know that this is a fantastic community, but it has its problems, and this is one of those problems,” said Boot.

“I’m hoping that together as a collective, which will include the South Okanagan Immigrant & Community Services, and the high school, and the school district, we can work together to do something. So that people understand the difference between saying you’re not a racist to actually being an anti-racist, and somebody who is an ally and will stand up for people in the community that are experiencing racism. It’s a big hope, it’s a big ask, but I’m hopeful.”

At this it is unknown who is responsible for adding the racial slur, but RCMP have been made aware of the incident and an investigation is underway.

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