A First Nations leader on Vancouver Island has launched an online campaign against racism toward his community amid COVID-19 — with an artistic twist.
Stuart Pagaduan, elected councillor of Cowichan Tribes and artist, created a raised fist image the same day North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring denounced what he calls fear-based racist comments directed at the First Nations community that's been hit by the highly infectious disease.
"[The] colours represent the people of the world," Pagaduan told Gregor Craigie, host of CBC's On The Island, with the colours of the fingers representing different cultures in his poster entitled I Stand With Cowichan Tribes.
"Judging a person does not define who they are … It defines who you are," the artwork reads.
"It [the poster] should inspire unity, and it should inspire you to take part in what's happening, not only in Cowichan but [also] … what's happening in your part of the world," Pagaduan said.
The Cowichan Tribes, located on Vancouver Island between Victoria and Nanaimo, B.C., was the target of online vitriol as the number of COVID-19 cases climbed all last week.
A Cowichan Tribes member was also denied service by a local dentist earlier this month due to COVID-19 fears.
The First Nation has stopped publicly sharing its COVID-19 case numbers after racist comments were posted online.
Pagaduan says his poster has received more than 100 supportive comments since it was posted Jan. 11, from people of different cultural backgrounds.
"It [the poster's popularity] just goes to show you that the relationships that we create in the community are huge," he said. "They're our friends and they definitely do stand with us."
The shelter-in-place order for Cowichan Tribes has been extended to Feb. 5.
About 600 members have already received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and more vaccines are set to arrive in the community.
Pagaduan says he's hopeful.
"We will overcome this [pandemic] eventually."
Tap the link below to hear Stuart Pagaduan's interview On The Island: