'Canada will burn; Praise Allah' defaces war memorial

Coronation Park Victory Peace memorial



TORONTO -- Toronto Police are calling the vandalism of a west-end war memorial "a hate crime."

A woman walking Sunday night by the sculpture in Coronation Park -- at the foot of Strachan Ave. and Lakeshore Blvd. W. -- called police after noticing someone had taken a black marker and written "Canada will burn; Praise Allah" on the memorial.

"This is an identifiable group," Det. Anthony Williams told reporters at the scene Monday. "The veterans should be respected. That's a total disrespect for our sworn members and military members who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

At the Remembrance Day ceremony at Old City Hall Sunday morning, anti-war protesters were heard chanting during the two minutes of silence.

Williams said he couldn't speculate whether the vandalism was related to the protest.

"I can't speculate as to what their motivation is, but if they did this on Nov. 10 or 11, someone is looking for an opportunity to draw attention to themselves," he said.

City cleaners scrubbed the offensive black lettering off the memorial.

George Murphy, 72, whose father fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino and in Normandy during the Second World War, teared up looking at the monument.

"I think it's terrible to see them destroy what these veterans have done for us," he said. "It's like stepping on them. These people wanted to protect our lives. My father would be very upset over this."

John McEwen, 67, who built the memorial in 1995, said the monument symbolizes the range of languages in Canada, and recognizes the 50th anniversary of the Second World War and the military contributions of Canadians.

"Do I take it personally? No, and I don't think the veterans should take it personally," he said.

"Stupidity isn't even politics. Stupidity is ignorance and ignorance is an indulgence in a place where you don't know what's going on.

"If you had any political agenda you were trying to serve, it's just wasted."

Mayor Rob Ford said he was sickened by the news of the war memorial being defaced.

"It really, really bothers me," Ford said at City Hall on Monday.

"For someone to stoop to that level, people have sacrificed their lives for us to be here. It makes me absolutely sick."

Mischief and vandalism charges could be likely, Williams said, but there "are provisions for higher penalties when they are designated as a hate crime."

Officers were also investigating a sign at a lifeguard's post near the memorial, which had "Holy Jihad" written in black marker, to determine if there was any connection with the vandalism of the memorial.

Police urge anyone with information to call 416-808-1400 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS.

-- With files from Don Peat

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