A mural designed to bring communities together and spark conversations about hate was recently unveiled in B.C.’s Similkameen Valley.
One of four projects in B.C., the local From Hate to Hope mural now stands in front of the South Similkameen Health Centre along Highway 3.
“The murals are all entitled Hate to Hope as well to really capture this transition we’re hoping we can make as a province as a society from the kind of hate we’ve experienced during COVID to a much more peaceful and hopeful time,” said Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender.
The South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), Interior Health, and B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner partnered to create this piece.
The project is built on recommendations from the commissioner’s inquiry into hate during the pandemic compiled in the From Hate to Hope report.
“We released the final report of a large public inquiry we were conducting, and the inquiry was looking into the rise of hate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The final result was a report with 12 recommendations,” said Govender.
“The recommendations are largely aimed at the provincial government but also at police and social media companies. So, we’re still working on trying to get those recommendations implemented, but at the same time, we wanted to make sure that this work continued to have life in the community. So, we’ve been doing murals.”
The piece includes four panels which were each designed by SOICS’ youth who brainstormed ideas about how hate has impacted local communities.
Following several months of brainstorming, consultations, editing and painting, the ideas were brought to life by a local artist.
“Part of my job as the youth facilitator is to get the youth engaged with diversity and inclusion topics. And when the BC Human Rights Commissioner presented us with this opportunity, it was great to get the youth involved in these things because … they are the future,” said SOICS youth facilitator Gary Saran.
“(The youth) were really enthusiastic and happy to be part of something that’s going to be lasting and put up in the community in Keremeos and to be proud of that and tell people they know that ‘I was a part of this project and the message it portrays.’”
The first panel ‘Community Library’ shows a public library much like several that are located throughout Penticton. It is meant to encourage continuous learning and unlearning in addressing hate.
The second panel ‘Round Dance’ represents the Truth and Reconciliation Day last year in Penticton. The third panel ‘Orchard’ is meant to represent migrant workers in the region.
“Over the pandemic, we really saw an incredible increase in hate. Not just across the country but locally as well. And the BC Human Rights Commissioner’s office did an inquiry called From Hate to Hope, really looking at what that looks like, where were they seeing it, what was happening in our communities,” said SOICS executive director Cherry Fernandez.
“What was really exciting for me about this mural is that it really speaks to the situation locally. And it takes you on that journey looking at some very real hate incidences here, and really trying that picture of the hope that can be found.”
The fourth and final panel ‘Rainbow Cross Walk’ is meant to serve as a reminder of the ongoing challenges that LGBTQ2SAI+ communities face. It shows the repeated vandalism of the rainbow crosswalk in Penticton and also features respected Penticton Indian Band Elder Grace Greyeyes who performed a blessing ceremony on the crosswalk when it was first unveiled.
Grace Greyeyes passed away last week after a years-long battle with cancer. She was 81.
“She’s known locally as Grandma Grace… (the mural) really speaks to the love that she has for people,” said Fernandez.
“She really embodied diversity, inclusion, and that work towards equity for everyone. And I’m so proud that before she passed she was able to see that she was a big part of something that will remain there and be a constant reminder for all of us that we can do better.”
Two other murals have already been unveiled in East Vancouver and Fort St. John. Keremeos is the third part of the series. The fourth and final installation is planned for Nanaimo.
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