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Fire set to Malahat totem

Police believe action was retaliation for toppled Captain Cook statue

A totem burned atop the Malahat Drive in the early morning hours of July 2, is believed to be retaliation for the statue of Captain James Cook that anti-colonial activists allegedly toppled into Victoria’s Inner Harbour on July 1.

“ONE TOTEM - ONE STATUE” was spray-painted on a concrete barrier in front of the totem.

Duncan’s Odessa Strom was driving home about 2:30 a.m. July 2 when she saw the totem pole up in flames.

“By the time we turned around to see what we could do, two other ladies used their water bottles to put out what they could,” Strom said. “We could hear the fire truck coming and we were asked to move out of the way so we left.”

The pole holds a special place in Strom’s heart as it was carved by her late grand uncle Stan Modeste.

“This was very sad,” she said.

A Thunderbird on the Salish Bear Pole, which sits proudly at the Malahat Summit Viewpoint, was dedicated in 1966 to commemorate the centenary of the union in 1866 of the Vancouver Island colonies with the mainland.

Shawnigan Lake RCMP report being dispatched after a motorist called it in at 4 a.m. The Malahat Volunteer Fire Department was already there extinguishing the fire when officers arrived.

“The quick thinking of the passing motorist likely saved not only the totem pole, but also a forest fire,” said Shawnigan Lake RCMP Detachment Commander Sgt Tim Desaulniers. “This was a very dangerous act that could have had far reaching consequences. We will be working with partners along the Malahat for video and dashcam footage in an effort to identify suspect(s).”

Shawnigan Mounties are working with the Vancouver Island Forensic identification Section to identify a suspect. Evidence from the scene was collected and seized.

“Fresh graffiti was also located at the scene, speaking to recent events in Victoria where a statue of James Cook was pulled down and thrown in the Victoria Harbour, based on what was written, we feel the two incidences are related,” Sgt Desaulniers added.

Meanwhile, Victoria police are seeking information and video about just who damaged the Cook statue.

SEE RELATED: Victoria police seek two suspects in toppling of Captain James Cook statue

”Shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, a group of people in the 700-block of Government Street dismantled the Captain Cook statue and threw it into the inner harbour. Investigators are asking for information and video of the incident,” said a press release issued by the Victoria Police Department. “Safe, peaceful and lawful protests are permitted under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Property damage is not.”

Those with information or video about the Cook statue are asked to call the VicPD Report Desk at (250) 995-7654 extension 1. To report what you know anonymously, please call Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Those with information about the totem pole fire are asked to call the Shawnigan Lake RCMP at 250-743-5514.

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Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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