Owners of a horse boarding facility in Maple Ridge are living in fear after their business was incorrectly associated with a racist rant about the Kamloops residential school tragedy by a person living on Vancouver Island.
Everything exploded for Laura and Lisa Anderson, who own Harlequin Stables off Laity Street, Monday afternoon, May 31, when Laura said she got a strange message on their Facebook business account.
“Hope you enjoy being bankrupt,” it said.
She didn’t think much of it.
Then after a half hour passed by she started seeing more comments saying ” Nazi,” “racist,” “child rapist,” and comments about them agreeing to the rape and murder of children.
At first, Laura thought she was being spammed by someone trying to blackmail them.
Then all the photos they had on Facebook had orange hearts put on them.
Her twin sister Lisa started to look at the profiles of the people sending them the messages. On one of the profiles Lisa found a post written by a woman named Sandra McDonnell and when Lisa went to her page and clicked on the hotlink it said harlequin.ca.
The Anderson’s business, that offers horseback riding lessons, is harlequinstables.com.
McDonnell, who was the author of the racist post, is associated with a hobby farm on Vancouver Island called Harlequin Homestead. A YouTube page of the same name says McDonnell and her daughter offers tips on hobby farming and cooking, and notes the 10-acre farm has horses, donkey, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, koi fish, and more.
The Anderson twins have owned their business for the past five years and named it after one of their beloved horses.
And they are mortified that they have been caught up in the outrage that is lashing out online over McDonnell’s post.
Even today, Lisa said, people have been driving by their property and even walking up their driveway yelling things like, “racist” and “child molesters.”
Laura answered the phone and had a man scream at her, even though she tried to explain they have no association to McDonnell.
“How many other people did he give my phone number to?” she wondered.
“This is ruining my livelihood,” said Lisa. The Andersons have 29 horses at their stables including 12 rescues, thoroughbred race horses, standard bred race horses, jump horses, and dressage horses. Most of their rescues are repurposed to be used in their riding school.
“Now I have to fear that people are going to try and maybe hurt my animals,” she said.
And, to make matters even worse, one of their ponies collapsed on Monday.
“The first thing that came to mind is that somebody poisoned it,” she said. However, the vet attended and determined she wasn’t poisoned, and the horse is fine now.
The Andersons are particularly upset because they also have therapy horses that offer people of all ages with emotional problems, comfort.
“This is a safe place for kids to enjoy,” said Lisa.
The Andersons have been reaching out online to tell people they are targeting their rage at the wrong people and the wrong business.
But after the drive-by’s the Anderson’s are scared.
“I’m scared for myself, my family, my students and I’m scared for my poor animals,” added Laura.
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