A huge crucifix that has perched atop a famous viewpoint in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley for decades was suddenly removed last week. According to Duncan Mayor Al Siebring, the cross at the peak of Mount Tzouhalem, some four kilometers east of Duncan, vanished at some time in the previous several days, having been severed from its foundation.
Photos of what was left of the cross began to circulate on social media. The RCMP did not immediately reply to CBC News’ request for clarification on whether police are investigating the removal of the cross.
In a Facebook post, Siebring called the act a “sad bit of vandalism.” He claims that someone purposefully used a grinder to cut through the metal and remove the cross. Siebring advised people not to mix up the removal of the cross with other recent acts of vandalism, such as the burning down of churches and the toppling of sculptures until the motivation for the removal of the cross is revealed. “That’s where our brains travel in our current cultural setting,” he wrote.
Vandalism of churches and sculptures of historical Canadian figures occurred in response to the finding of bodies in unmarked graves at old residential school sites. The cross may be seen at Chase Woods Nature Preserve. In 2009, the Nature Conservancy of Canada purchased the 40-hectare property. In 2019, the area was designated as a nature preserve.
“This area lies in the center of the Cowichan Tribes’ traditional territory, and Chase Woods itself retains great cultural importance to band members, who continue to use the place to this day,” the conservancy stated on its website.
Mount Tzouhalem is also home to a provincial ecological reserve that was created in 1984. According to the government, the Tzouhalem region has a long history of harvesting for the Vancouver Island Coast Salish First Nations, and it was historically burnt to improve harvests and preserve the area’s open park-like ecology.
According to the conservancy, the cross was destroyed by a windstorm in November 2014. It has to be fixed and reinstalled.