Totem Pole fire linked to removal of James Cook statue in Victoria

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Shawnigan Lake RCMP officers are investigating after a totem pole was set on fire at the Malahat lookout near the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

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A motorist, who saw the flames on July 2, alerted authorities and the Malahat Volunteer Fire Department were quickly on the scene.

Shawnigan Lake RCMP Sgt. Tim Desaulniers said the motorist’s quick thinking saved the totem pole and probably prevented a forest fire.

Setting the fire, “was a very dangerous act that could have had far-reaching consequences. We will be working with partners along the Malahat for video and dashcam footage in an effort to identify suspect(s),” Desaulniers said in a release.

Evidence from the scene has been seized and investigators are working with members of the Vancouver Island Forensic Identification Section (FIS) in hopes of identifying a suspect. 

Desaulniers also said that fresh graffiti at the scene may relate the totem pole incident to the recent removal of a statue of James Cook in Victoria on Thursday night.

The memorial statue was pulled down and thrown into Victoria Harbour, and the RCMP believes the two acts of vandalism are connected.

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Thousands of people were in downtown Victoria Thursday night — Canada Day — and eyewitnesses report that a group of a few hundred people broke away from the general gathering and headed to the statue, eventually removing it.

Hours after the statue was pulled down, the totem pole at Malahat lookout was set on fire. Shawnigan Lake RCMP was contacted just after 4 a.m. on July 2.

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