Online angst is spilling onto Tofino’s streets and beaches and it’s not just visitors bearing the brunt of local frustrations.
Tofino mayor Josie Osborne is calling on the community to increase its civility towards tourists and the locals tasked with managing them following multiple reports of vehicles being vandalized in town.
Three vehicles belonging to tourists visiting from the mainland were vandalized on Sept. 10, with tires being slashed and messaging written on windows including, ‘go home.’
“I’m outraged that anyone would vandalize vehicles and write antisocial messages directed at another human being, and I’m so sorry for the owner of the vehicle that experienced Thursday’s incident and anyone else who’s experienced something like this. There is absolutely no excuse for it. Regardless of your feelings about visitors being in Tofino, there are mature and appropriate ways to express your feelings that do not involve cowardly, vicious, and hurtful actions like these,” Osborne told the Westerly News via email.
“It is extremely important for all of us to remember that these are actions of one or very few individuals, and they do not represent Tofitians or what our community is all about…During the entire pandemic and in countless crises we have faced in the past, Tofitians consistently show how caring, supportive and generous we are. This community always goes above and beyond to help others, no matter what province or country they hail from.”
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She said District of Tofino staff members are also being targeted as a vandal slashed a district-owned vehicle’s tire in front of a bylaw enforcement officer on Sept. 12.
“I take the safety of District staff extremely seriously and these incidents have resulted in immediate changes in operations to protect their safety. District staff work on behalf of Tofino to serve all of us and our by-law enforcement staff have some of the most difficult jobs that almost all of the rest of us would never want to do,” Osborne said.
Tofino’s Chief Administrative Officer Bob MacPherson told the Westerly that a bylaw officer was at MacKenzie Beach on a routine patrol when the incident occurred.
“He was near the vehicle and, while he was present, someone slashed a tire and ran off into one of the resort properties…This is a criminal act. It has been handed over to the RCMP for investigation,” MacPherson said. “Criminal behaviour is just not acceptable. Attacks on district property and on district staff are not acceptable and those are the kinds of things that we are working with the RCMP to pursue as much as we can. We also have an eye on next summer and what next summer will be like and we’re going to be working with other partners out here on the coast to make some changes for next summer to have a better handle on what’s happening, particularly on public property.”
He said the bylaw officers and RCMP have increased their presence at local beaches, particularly in regards to beach fires, and he believes the incident was a targeted attack against bylaw enforcement.
“This summer has been a challenging one. We, looking at information that we had in March and April, were expecting a quieter summer and that’s not what we got. Our staff stepped up and took on overtime and did what they could and we’ve enhanced resources as much as we could with additional bylaw through some casual hires as well as working with RCMP to improve our presence,” he said.
“It seems like we have something occurring in our community where people are kind of taking it upon themselves to abuse our employees either for not doing enough or for doing too much. It’s a really difficult position that our bylaw officers are in. They’re not the ones who make the rules. They have the difficult job of enforcing rules that somebody else makes. Some people don’t think they enforce them enough and others think that they’re enforcing them too much…I’m going to speculate that that was the case on the weekend. Someone just didn’t want bylaw enforcement happening on Mackenzie Beach.”
MacPherson has been involved with municipal work for roughly 28 years and said discontent is largely common and often expressed through productive avenues, but this summer has brought increasingly inappropriate behaviour.
“I think it’s par for the course for municipal government. We’re very close to the community and people who live in the community and who are part of the community want to criticize decisions that we make and things that we do. And, there should be an avenue for people to address policy or law or administrative decisions that are made. In my mind, that’s just fair ball. This is something different,” he said.
“Things do feel different and we’re hearing similar things from other folks out here on the Coast as well…More generally, just in the world right now, there’s more discontent and discontent directed at authority. People, certainly online, feel much more validated in attacking anything that’s happening, whether it’s by government or a sports team or anything and that is beginning to spill over into the real world. We’re seeing it a fair bit on this continent right now and it’s getting dangerous.”
He said additional measures are being put in place to ensure the safety of district staff.
“We are proceeding with a little more caution in our jobs now…We’re putting in place some measures to make sure that our staff are safe and of course anytime our staff feel they are in an unsafe situation their instruction is to remove themselves from it,” he said. “I haven’t heard from staff that they don’t want to come to work because of this, but at the same time we’re trying to support them to make sure that their work environment is kept as safe as possible.”
Osborne said everyone in town deserves respect, whether they work at the local Co-op, school, post office or district office and she condemned the actions of some members of the community refusing to show that respect.
“Calling out District staff members on social media, harassing or attempting to intimidate them is unacceptable and must stop. This is not how we treat our neighbours and friends, and it is not how we should treat our fellow Tofitians,” she said. “Now is the time to lift up all hard-working staff members in every business and institution in Tofino. We are all in this together and we must remain compassionate, kind, and try our very best to express our frustrations in ways that do not hurt the very people we depend upon in our own times of need. Thank you so much to everyone who is working so hard to help us through this trying time.”
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