The cross, which sits atop Mount Tzouhalem, about four kilometers east of Duncan, has disappeared at some point in recent days, cut off from its base, according to Duncan Mayor Al Siebring. Photos began to appear on social media depicting what was left of the cross.
The RCMP did not immediately respond to CBC News to say whether officers are investigating the removal of the cross.
Siebring described the incident as a “sad act of vandalism” in a Facebook post. He says he thinks someone purposely used a grinder to cut through the metal and remove the cross.
“Who did this, or why, is not known at this point,” he wrote.
Siebring warned people not to confuse the removal of the cross with other recent acts of vandalism, which resulted in the burning of churches and the overturning of statues, until the motive for the removal of the cross be known.
“In our current cultural context, this is where our spirits go,” he wrote.
Some of the vandalism involving churches and statues of historic Canadian rulers followed the discovery of remains in anonymous graves at the sites of former residential schools.
The cross is located in the Chase Woods Nature Reserve. The Nature Conservancy of Canada acquired the 40 hectare site in 2009. The area was considered a nature destination in 2019.
“This land is at the heart of the traditional territory of the Cowichan tribes, and Chase Woods himself has significant cultural value to the members of the group, who continue to use the site to this day,” the conservation wrote on its website.
The Mount Tzouhalem areas are also part of a provincial ecological reserve, which was established in 1984. The province claims that the Tzouhalem area is a historic harvesting site for the Salish First Nations of the coast of the island of Vancouver, which was traditionally burnt to increase yields and maintain park-like habitat.
Conservation said in November 2014 that a windstorm knocked down the cross. It has been repaired and reinstalled.