“I think until we can stop seeing color and stop criticizing people’s beliefs and cultures it’s not going to change but Williams Lake is on its way,” says Kerry Chelsea who owns Four Winds Driving School. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

First Nations business owner promotes unity following racist vandalism

Four Winds Driving School has had an office space in Williams Lake since 2017

An Indigenous business owner in Williams Lake says his faith may have been bruised by a racist act of vandalism but he would still help those responsible in their time of need.

Kerry Chelsea of Four Winds Driving School awoke to find the car he uses for driving lessons vandalized at the back of his family’s home on Gibbon Street on Tuesday, July 7.

The tires were flat after having been slashed.

He had also noticed burgundy paint on the hood that had been running due to the rain.

Although Chelsea could not fully make out the words he was able to make out the first word that said ‘Indians’ and believes the remaining words were ‘go home.’

“I was very upset because that’s our business,” he said.

“We’re trying to keep this business alive and this vandalism came at a time when a lot of small businesses are struggling, and with the Black Lives Matter movement happening it really felt like it wasn’t just an attack just on me but all of our First Nations in the community so I was very upset.”

Scrambling to find a solution to remove the paint, Chelsea was able to find a YouTube video that provided worthwhile instructions on how to get it off.

“Being during COVID-19 the first thing that popped into my mind after being highly offended, I thought to myself how am I going to pay for the deductible and how long is it going to take for ICBC to get this off of my hood ” he said.

“There’s no way that I will drive that car and do student training with First Nations slander on the hood — you can’t.”

The instructional video luckily worked, and Chelsea later took the vehicle that same day down to a shop for new tires.

“We were really fortunate that that came right off the hood and one of our local businesses was able to help us right away,” he said. “There was no waiting, there was no paying a deductible and waiting for ICBC to approve and then having the car out of commission for two months which at this time we wouldn’t be able to afford.”

Upset by the event, Chelsea admitted that he had stopped himself from venting on social social after giving it some thought.

“I took a deep breath and thought to myself how can I change this really negative thing that happened into something else,” he said noting, he and his wife have tried to create a world for their children in which everyone is equal.

“It’s unfortunate that these things happen but it’s not going to change me; it’s not going to change my train of thought.”

With a First Nations father and a French mother, Chelsea had moved with his parents to Alkali Lake from Quebec at a young age before they settled in Williams Lake.

He said while he had quickly learned what racism was and experienced it first-hand numerous times, on the other hand Williams Lake held its first pride parade in 2019 and has come a long way in standing up to racism.

Read More: Lakecity teen feels ‘at peace’ after organizing anti-racism rally in Williams Lake

“To see that progression halt and stop with what happened I think that’s what upset me the most,” Chelsea said. “It kind of shook me but you have to take the good out of the bad otherwise it’s going to be a tough life.”

Writing a Facebook post promoting unity, Chelsea said education is key in moving forward and putting an end such to such behavior.

“Ignorance is bliss is what they say and when you take away that ignorance that is when people really start to think and it all boils down to education,” he said.

“For all I know that person has never experienced any of the First Nations culture which is a beautiful culture.”

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