Veteran 'hurt and outraged' as vandals paint swastikas on Chatham cenotaph
The president of Chatham Branch 642 of the Royal Canadian Legion says he's "hurt and outraged" after someone spray-painted swastikas on the Chatham cenotaph.
"Why?" asked Len Maynard, who is also a 30-year veteran and the zone sergeant at arms and District A sergeant at arms with the legion.
"What's their point? Why the swastika?" he asked. "People that the monument was raised for fought against that symbol, and we fought to keep this country free. … I would like to know why someone would do something that heinous to a symbol like that."
Chatham-Kent police are asking for the public's help to find the person or people who defaced the monument.
Police received a call early Wednesday morning about the graffiti and are currently investigating, said Sgt. Lynette Hodder, a public information officer with the Chatham-Kent Police Service.
They are asking anyone who may have seen the incident or captured it on video to contact them.
Daniel Brotman, executive director of the Windsor Jewish Federation, called the incident "disturbing" and said it's indicative of increasing antisemitism across Canada.
"What happened in Chatham is just one more incident that we're facing," said Brotman, who has lived in the community for a little over two years.
"Not that long before I arrived, we had rocks that were thrown at our kosher restaurant through the window. You know we have had incidents where very strange, suspicious people have come to the Jewish Community Centre shouting at us about what's happening in the Middle East to the extent that our staff don't feel safe."
He's concerned, he said, by the perceived lack of consequences for antisemitic actions and remarks and by the lack of outcry from the larger community when such incidents occur.
Concern about rising antisemitism
"It shouldn't just be the Jewish community that has to raise this issue," Brotman said. "Where are our allies?"
Hodder, with the Chatham-Kent Police Service, could not confirm whether or not the incident reflected a rise in hate-motivated crimes in the area, she said, and Statistics Canada does not provide hate crime data for that area specifically because it would not meet their confidentiality standards, the agency said.
But data from StatsCan released in August of 2022 shows an increase in police-reported hate crimes Canada-wide between 2017 and 2021.
Total hate-motivated crimes were up 62 per cent — from 2073 to 3360 — during that time-period.
Those based on race or ethnicity nearly doubled — from 878 to 1723.
Crimes motivated by religion reached a high of 842 in 2017 before gradually dropping to 530 in 2020 then peaking at 884 in 2021.
In the Windsor census metropolitan area, the rate of police-reported hate crimes grew from 5.5 per 100,000 people in 2017 to 11 in 2021 — representing an increase from 19 to 35 incidents in actual numbers.