Around 86 tombstones were vandalized over the weekend at the St. François-de-Sales Cemetery on Saint-Louis St. in Gatineau. Josee Bigras tries to fix a damaged angel on the family tombstone Monday, September 3, 2012.
Credits: Darren Brown/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency
She and other relatives left a festival Monday to rush to St. Francois De Sales Cemetery, which had been brutally vandalized overnight Saturday.
"It's sad," said Bigras, as she looked over the tombstone that marked the graves of son Mathieu's grandparents and their brothers.
The white angel statues had been broken off and smashed.
The Bigras were among horrified relatives of loved ones buried at St. Francois, where police say vandals wrecked at least 86 gravesites.
Broken angels, crosses, torn flowers and toppled tombstones littered one of the oldest burial sites in Quebec.
"It's really maddening and frustrating," said Norma Lee, who came with family to scour the site Monday morning.
"They don't have faith, they don't have respect."
The graves of Lee's mother, sister and daughter were untouched but markers of other family friends were destroyed.
Other sites barely escaped unscathed, such as the family grave visited by Claude and Georgette Belanger. The couple were relieved to find the tombstone of his parents and their baby intact, while all the ones around it were ruined.
"I think it's horrible," Claude said. "I'm just happy (our tombstone) is not down."
Police said as many as three suspects are responsible for the damage, which is estimated to be as high as $50,000.
While some of the tombstones were simply knocked over, others were broken or scratched, making the engraved names unreadable.
Police are working with the cemetery to obtain a list of lot numbers.
"It's not something socially acceptable," Sgt. Patrick Vaillancourt said.
Police say tombstones have been toppled in the past but the widespread damage in this case is uncommon.
Yet is has happened before, such as a 2007 when 80 grave markers were desecrated at St. Paul Cemetery in Aylmer, Que.
Workers spent Monday working to repair St. Francois sites and cemetery manager Roger Gagnon said victimized families would not have to bear costs.
Some of the tombstones, which can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, required a backhoe equipped with straps to be lifted back into place.
"We work hard to keep our cemetery clean and nice as a place of respect," said Gagnon, who was saddened by the devastation.
There is no security at the cemetery but Gagnon said nothing like this has ever happened in the decade he has worked there.