A Neepawa, Man., woman originally from the Philippines said she was surprised and sad to see racist graffiti targeting Asian people scrawled across the town's welcome sign on the highway over the long weekend.
"We were hurt a bit, and horrified," said Myla Ignacio, a settlement worker who also teaches Tagalog in the Manitoba town of around 4,600.
"After the celebration of the 150th and we always say that, well, Canada is supposed to be inclusive, Canada is so welcoming, suddenly there is that."
Using a black spray bomb, vandals painted racist phrases on the sign and on a public building in a park in Neepawa, about 170 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. The graffiti uses a racial slur referring to Asian people and Ignacio said it often refers to people of Filipino, Korean or Vietnamese descent.
Two additional sites were also targeted with anti-government phrases, including the town's Legion.
RCMP are investigating the incidents. No suspects have been identified so far, said Sgt. Mark Morehouse. He said he's never seen an incident like this in the town before.
"It's very concerning. We want to definitely stop this," Morehouse said. "We have over a thousand people here [who are] immigrants from the Philippines working at our hog plant, and families, in town so it's very concerning when it comes to something like this."
Morehouse said police are increasing shifts overnight and have asked a community patrol group to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.
Neepawa Mayor Adrian de Groot said attempts to paint over the vandalism on the welcome sign have been unsuccessful. The sign is worth thousands of dollars and he's not sure the town will be able to replace it.
He said the community is pulling together to repair the damage.
"We had a number of individuals and businesses who have come forward to help, who've said, 'This is not Neepawa. This is not acceptable. This is something that is outside of the norm,'" de Groot said.
- Neepawa residents embrace newcomer culture with new conversational Tagalog class
- Catholic church in Neepawa bursting at the seams due to immigration
Ignacio said she doesn't feel the vandalism reflects the overall community in Neepawa.
"It could be like just one or two [people]. I always believe that Canada is supposed to be very inclusive, and here we take pride on that one. Anywhere I go in town I can always feel that sense of belongingness," she said.
She said she doesn't understand what motivated the person who painted the phrases, but she hopes it doesn't happen again.
"My message to whoever did that is, can we just not show love? I know whatever he or she is feeling right now, this is really terrible," she said.
"But … what is important, really, our community should be moved with love and respect for each other regardless of our differences, regardless of our colours, regardless of our background."