Large cross at the top of mountain near Duncan removed

A large cross that for decades stood atop a popular lookout in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island was mysteriously removed this week.

The cross, which is at the summit of Mount Tzouhalem, about four kilometres east of Duncan, disappeared at some point in the last few days, cut from its base, according to Duncan Mayor Al Siebring.

Photos began showing up on social media depicting what is left of the cross.

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 piece of vandalism” in a post on Facebook. He says he believes someone deliberately 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 cautioned people not to conflate the removal of the cross with other recent acts of vandalism, which have resulted in the burning down of churches and the toppling of statues, until the motive behind removal of the cross is known.

“In our present cultural context, that’s where our minds go,” he wrote.

Some of the acts of vandalism involving churches and statues of historical Canadian leaders followed the discovery of remains in unmarked graves at former residential school sites.

The cross is located in the Chase Woods Nature Preserve. The Nature Conservancy of Canada acquired the 40-hectare site in 2009. The area was deemed a nature destination in 2019.

“This land is in the heart of the traditional territory of the Cowichan Tribes, and Chase Woods itself holds significant cultural value to the band members, who continue to use the site to this day,” the conservancy wrote on its website.

Areas of Mount Tzouhalem are also part of a provincial ecological reserve, which was established in 1984. The province says the Tzouhalem area is a historical harvesting location for the Vancouver Island Coast Salish First Nations, which was traditionally burned to increase yields and maintain its open park-like habitat.

The conservancy said in November 2014 a windstorm knocked down the cross. It was repaired and reinstalled.