The annual confluence of June festivities including Pride Month, National Indigenous History Month and Juneteenth make this month a cause for joy and excitement, but it also seems like a cause for consternation. A recent round of vandalism in the area has target Pride flags, Indigenous groups, and a local Black History landmark, and that’s creating concerns in communities that should be celebrating.
In areas around Wellington County and Perth County, there have been what the OPP is calling “a rash of mischiefs,” otherwise known as vandalism in places flying the rainbow flag. “Between June 1 and 13, a number of Pride decorations and flags have been destroyed at schools, on streets and at a business.”
Incidents were reported at the following times and locations:
- On June 4, 2022, at approximately 10:00 p.m. unknown suspects damaged several Pride ribbons that decorated light standards on Main Street, Palmerston.
- On June 12, 2022, at approximately 11:00 p.m., unknown suspects damaged a Pride flag at a business on Mitchell Street South, Listowel and a Pride flag at a school in Listowel, North Perth.
- Sometime between June 10, 2022, and June 13, 2022, unknown suspects damaged a Pride flag at a Drayton School, at a Harriston School and at a Morefield School, Mapleton.
- On June 13, 2022, police received a report that unknown suspects damaged pride ribbon that decorated light standards in both Palmerston and Harriston, Minto.
Since several schools were targeted, the Upper Grand District School Board released a statement saying that they consider these acts to be targeted hate crimes and that they’re working with police to find the perpetrators. They also said that if the anger being directed at Pride flags is rooted in improper flag etiquette, you’re wrong.
“There is a common misconception that it is illegal for schools to fly additional flags on the same flag pole as the Canadian flag. However, the UGDSB policy and procedure is in alignment with the The National Flag of Canada Etiquette, which states, ‘The rules applied by the federal government are in no way mandatory for individuals or organizations; they may serve as guidelines for all persons who wish to display the National Flag of Canada and other flags in Canada.'”
Anyone with information about these incidents it being asked to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122, or call anonymous to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).
Up the road in Kitchener, the Healing of the Seven Generations, a group dedicated to the health and healing of multi-generational trauma in Indigenous people, saw an act of vandalism of their own. CTV Kitchener reported Tuesday that a person stole several orange shirts from a memorial display outside their Frederick Street office.
“If it was a tombstone, they wouldn’t be coming here stealing a tombstone,” said executive director Donna Dubie. “This is like a memorial for the children. So I would ask out neighbours if they could please… You know, I don’t expect them to watch over the site 24 hours a day, but if they see somebody, please let us know. Call the police. Let them know that somebody’s tampering with our display or stealing the shirts.”
The theft comes just a few days after the Healing of the Seven Generations put out a media release in response to “recent social media interactions inciting bilateral violence in our community.”
The release, which was co-signed by the executive director of the K-W Urban Native Wigwam Project, said that both groups strive to create a safe and welcoming space for everyone, and that means physical space and online space. But since social media accounts are not monitored 24/7, some inappropriate comments sometimes escape immediate notice.
“We ask for the community’s support in maintaining safe space both online and in-person by treating one another with respect and humility,” the statement read.
In Guelph itself, the Guelph Black Heritage Society is again dealing with incidents of vandalism at their Heritage Hall headquarters on Essex Street. Heritage Hall has repeatedly been targeted for vandalism over the last few years, including incidents in the weeks following the giant Black Lives Matter march in June 2020.
“While we are doing our best to support the community we are also experiencing some major challenges like vandalism,” said a statement from GBHS on Facebook. “In recent days we have had garbage left, needles on our ramp and even a pile of human fecal matter at the side door entrance. We have several outside cameras and this has not deterred the disrespectful treatment from happening.”
“It is disheartening that these things are happening and we must do better as a community to take better care of one another and the spaces we work or breathe in. If the community has an idea how best to respond or handle this – we are open to ideas as this continues to happen. It is a safety issue for our members, community, renters and volunteers.”