Ponoka News received a couple of videos on Feb. 28 from a reader who wished not to be identified for their protection, showing apparent teenagers issuing racist and sexist slurs, allegedly over Snapchat and Facebook.
The heated online activity resulted in a hold and secure at the Ponoka Secondary Campus throughout the day on Feb. 28.
A written statement from Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Jayson Lovell provided to Ponoka News at about 3 p.m. on Feb. 28 reads:
“We are aware of an incident that took place outside of school hours and off school property, but did involve Ponoka Secondary Campus students, and we are aware of social media in relation to that incident.
“The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. Such content and behaviour is disturbing and disheartening, and goes against all we do in Wolf Creek Public Schools in our efforts to support safe and caring schools, and work towards understanding among students.
“We remain committed to our ongoing efforts to build strong relationships in our school communities, and invite all our students and parents to be involved in that dialogue.”
The statement goes on to say that the hold and secure was a precautionary measure, based on the incident and social media response.
According to Lovell, the RCMP are continuing to work with school and district administration to take appropriate steps to address this matter.
“We want to assure parents and the community that students and staff were safe throughout the hold and secure. Again, this was a precautionary measure, and there was no incident at the school.”
In one video, youths in a vehicle appear to be drinking alcohol while in a vehicle.
In the blurry video, the vehicle occupants repeat racist slurs and profanities while Indigenous singing plays in the background and a “Do something [vulgar term]” and “Maskwacis Four Nations Alberta” shows on the screen.
In another video, four youths appear, flinging racist comments, threats and use a derogatory term for a female, while seeming to criticize someone’s appearance, mentioning popping pimples.
One male goes as far to threaten, “I’ll scalp you this time, how ‘bout that?”
At least one of the videos seems to have been posted by a male living in Ponoka, according to the name used to post the video and the Facebook profile of the same name.
According to the unidentified reader, who is a concerned member of Maskwacis whose children attend school in Ponoka, there have been a few incidents recently of people driving through Maskwacis, rolling down the windows and yelling racist slurs.
They believe the recent increase in racist activity is due to the ongoing pipeline protests across the country.
“It’s a lot worse now that the First Nations are standing up for their rights,” they said in a message to Ponoka News.
“Their parents should be ashamed of themselves for raising their kids to hate.”
The reader says a lot of parents are keeping their children home from school because of racism like this, and sent in a screen shot of such a comment on social media.
Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Craig Makinaw issued a strong statement denouncing the racist videos and urging community members to not seek retribution.
“This vulgar display of racism is indicative of a deeper issue in the country and in this province,” said Makinaw in the statement.
“The Ermineskin Cree Nation and the Nehiyawahk of Maskwacis have been subjected to this type of behavior since contact. We are still here. We have been dealing with this type of behaviour for longer than Ponoka, Alberta and Canada were even an idea.
“In this fraught moment in history, I call upon the leaders of central Alberta reserves, municipalities, and cities to condemn acts of racism and to educate themselves on the issues facing Indigenous people, including knowledge of the Treaties.
Makinaw then states that in order to heal from this incident, community members need to embrace their Nehiyaw teachings and to act with kindness.
“These young men are clearly hurting if they feel the need to lash out. Do not seek retribution … We have more in common than not.”
Cpl. Dianna Fontaine of the RCMP K Division confirmed that the Ponoka RCMP received a complaint about the videos at around mid-day on Feb. 28 and the file is now under investigation.
Note: Ponoka News is not sharing the videos due to the offensive nature of them, and to avoid identifying minors, as either victims or perpetrators, for legal reasons. Comments identifying either parties will be deleted.