Police in northern Alberta are investigating after receiving a complaint about a man wearing what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan hood into Canada Post in Grimshaw, Alta.
A photograph, shared widely on Facebook on Friday, shows a man in jeans, a reflective work jacket and a pointed white hood with eye slits cut into it.
The hood resembles the head covering worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), an infamous white supremacist hate group. Better known for its presence in the United States, there has also been a well-documented KKK presence in Canada and Alberta. Some of the Klan's ideas are reflected in the ideologies of other far right and white supremacist groups operating in Canada today.
In an interview, the woman who snapped the picture said she had just dropped off a letter at Canada Post herself on Friday and was back in her vehicle when she saw a man walk up, pull the hood on and go in.
She said her first instinct was to give him a spare mask she had in her vehicle, but then it sunk in that the head covering was intentional.
"They didn't wrap this around their face like you would with a bandanna if you had no other choice. They've chosen to make this item to wear. I was really appalled. I was shocked," she said.
The woman, who is concerned about safety and professional repercussions in the small community, spoke to CBC on the condition of anonymity. Grimshaw is located about 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
She took a photo, first sending it to her husband and then posting it to a local Facebook group in hopes that someone would recognize the person and reach out to them and tell them that the hood is inappropriate and not funny.
The post and photo have been shared widely, and said many of the comments have been positive and supportive, agreeing that the hood is not OK. But there are also a number of comments attacking her, arguing that the person in the hood wasn't causing any harm.
At the urging of several others, she decided to report what she saw to local police.
"I wasn't just posting this for shock value. This needs to stop if this person can be found," she said.
Alberta RCMP spokesperson Const. Jennifer Brewer confirmed that Peace River RCMP are aware of the complaint and have opened an investigation in hopes of identifying the person wearing the hood. She said she could not confirm Saturday whether or not they had received more than one complaint.
The woman who took the photo said if she had a chance to speak to the person she saw, she would tell them what they did is not a joke.
"They need to question why they think that this is appropriate and why they think it's funny. And they need to consider who they are harming in the process. And if they have never had to consider it before, they need to consider why they have never had to consider it before," she said.
She added she has also seen people in her community and the surrounding area display Confederate flags, Make America Great Again paraphernalia, and bumper stickers and clothing expressing support for U.S. President Donald Trump.
"It makes no sense to me, but there are a lot of people that are feeling very confident in their white supremacy. It's really discouraging seeing someone be so blatant about it," she said.
'Inappropriate and unacceptable'
Grimshaw Mayor Bob Regal said Saturday that he was troubled when he saw the social media post.
"I found that very inappropriate and unacceptable. I don't believe our residents find that type of thing appropriate or acceptable," he said.
Regal said he was also concerned by comments on the post about Grimshaw being a racist community, which he said couldn't be further from the truth.
He said he would ask people not to jump to conclusions on social media, and said Grimshaw is tight-knit and prides itself on community spirit.
"I don't want to see this change because somebody made a stupid joke or somebody is racist. Let's deal with that on that individual basis. Don't paint the community with that same brush," he said.