Toronto police released video footage of four males defacing the newly restored war memorial at Malvern Collegiate Institute and asked the community to help identify the vandals Tuesday afternoon.
“We are hoping someone can identify who these people are and give us a call with their names, but what I would like to see is that one or more of them turn themselves in,” Const. Tony Vella said.
Tradition has it that in November people show their gratitude to war veterans by wearing a red poppy on the lapel of their jackets. The poppy is a symbol of the many fallen soldiers at Ypres, inspired by John McCrae’s 1915 poem, In Flanders Fields.
But gratitude and respect for veterans was not in the hearts of four teenage boys on Sunday as they climbed onto Malvern’s historic statue and wrapped it in blue tape, causing damage estimated at $2000.
The community is outraged by the vandalism and have pooled together around $8000 to pay for the damage.
“Initially what people were responding to was the fact that they saw on the news that the letters had fallen off,” principal Line Pinard said.
The extra money allows the school to start phase two of the restoration of the statue, which was in the plans prior to the vandalism. The school wants to add extra lights and security cameras around the memorial.
“Phase two is about security, maintenance, and beautification of the war memorial,” Pinard said. “That was in the works before the vandalism; it is maybe the silver lining to the cloud that because of the coverage of the vandalism many donors came forward beyond $2000.”
The statue was built in 1922 in honor of 25 soldiers who attended Malvern Collegiate, and had deteriorated over time. The statue was in desperate need of repairs; it was missing a hand and the sword, and needed repairs to its base and letters. In April 2010, the Toronto Sun published an article calling it “a disgrace.” It was restored and rededicated on Friday, two days before the vandals damaged it.
The repairs cost $44 000 dollars, which the school was able to raise thanks to their four organizational sponsors, and 108 individual donors, over the course of two years.
“I think it is very disrespectful, after we had the memorial [re-dedication] on Friday,” Kathryn Mazur, a grade 9 student at Malvern Collegiate, said.
Malvern’s war memorial is no stranger to disrespect and vandalism. Over the years it has undergone a number of offenses, including being painted red, egged, and being adorned in rival school’s clothing, or toilet tissue.
Police do not have a motive for the vandalism which occurred on Sunday at 12:50 am, but are looking “at all angles”, Const. John Little said.
“I really doubt that anybody has vandalized it with the intent of making a statement against veterans,” Mike Izzo, member of the Malvern War Memorial Restoration Committee, and faculty member at Malvern Collegiate Institute, said.
* Photos by Leigh Cavanaugh