Vanier cenotaph vandalized, but some say graffiti expressed grief not disrespect

·3 min read
Henry McCambridge, third vice-president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 462, stares at graffiti on the Eastview City Cenotaph in Vanier on Aug. 5, 2022. He is upset over the vandalism. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
Henry McCambridge, third vice-president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 462, stares at graffiti on the Eastview City Cenotaph in Vanier on Aug. 5, 2022. He is upset over the vandalism. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

The names of soldiers who died serving their country are carved in stone on a cenotaph in Ottawa's Vanier neighbourhood, but recently a new name was added.

This one was scrawled in marker over the marble.

RIP Alexis, it read.

The words appear at the base of a cross near the top of the marker, and are repeated on both sides of it. It's also scattered elsewhere across the memorial.

Members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 462 care for the Eastview City Cenotaph and said they're upset by the vandalism.

"This is sacred ground," explained Henry McCambridge, third vice-president with the branch, expressing his disapointment at the incident.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

However, it appears the messages were written out of grief, not disrespect, according to residents in the neighbourhood.

Residents shared that Alexis was the name of a woman who spent time at the small park that surrounds the memorial. They said she had a kind heart, but struggled at times.

"She could never really get the help that she needed," said Jean-Claude Lamothe. "There's a lot of that going on around here."

But he said he was upset by the vandalism too.

"We all have different ways of mourning, but to start desecrating a piece of property like this is outrageous."

Police still investigating fatal crash

People in the community surrounding the cenotaph said they believe Alexis is the person who was killed in a collision nearby on July 22.

Police previously said a 31-year-old woman was fatally hit by a vehicle at the intersection of Marier and Deschamps avenues around 5:43 a.m., that day.

Investigators would not release the name of the victim.

On Friday, a police spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing and no other details are available.

"We are unable to confirm if any words on the stone are linked to any ongoing investigations," wrote Const. Mike Cudrasov in an email.

A memorial dedicated solely to Alexis can be found a short drive from the cenotaph, where Marier Avenue meets Montreal Road.

Flowers, stuffed animals and messages of love and peace cover a tree. "RIP Alexis" is written on a pizza box in the same colour of marker as the words on the cenotaph.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

Graffiti removed Friday

"They should never touch our sacred ground again," the legion's McCambridge said, adding there's a recent trend of using cenotaphs and other memorials as sites to share their personal views.

"Please do not use us as a puppet for other issues."

 Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada
Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada

The Vanier BIA, which represents hundreds of properties and business owners in the area, arranged to have the cenotaph cleaned off on Friday afternoon.

Executive director Nathalie Carrier said she feels the words on the cenotaph shared an important message "about how vulnerable women in our community disappear."

Erasing the words on the cenotaph isn't meant to erase the loss felt by those who cared about the woman who died, she added.

"We're removing that message but we're not removing that story and the importance of telling the tales of vulnerable people."

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