As soon as he heard the news, Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation’s Chief Paul Prosper’s heart began to race. A school bus, a grade school and a sign in Antigonish, N.S., the remote county on the East Coast of Canada encircling the nation’s reserve, had been tagged with anti-Black and Indigenous racist slurs. Prosper’s heartbeat was anticipating terse interactions with parents, the school board and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, not to mention the students. “You’re sort of walking into a hornet’s nest, you know, you’re bound to get stung,” he says.
But looking back now at the 2018 incident, a different detail stands out to him: a text message from Owen McCarron, warden of Antigonish, who wrote: “I heard what has happened. This is completely unacceptable, it doesn’t reflect the attitudes of the vast majority of people and I’m here to support in any way I can,” Prosper recounts.