Police in Nanaimo are looking for suspects behind vandalism that targeted Chinese real estate agents.
The vandalism happened over the weekend, probably early Sunday morning police estimate, when eight bus stop bench advertisements were spray painted with ethnic slurs. A swastika was painted on one bench.
Mounties currently have no suspects or witnesses.
Police were also looking into some pamphlets that were distributed to homes in Nanaimo earlier in the month.
The pamphlets, produced by a group calling itself Putting Canada First, demanded city officials take steps to ensure housing remains affordable and “that the wonderful character of our community will remain intact.” A second pamphlet distributed by the same group displayed photos of the benches bearing the advertisements that displayed the realtors’ faces.
Those benches, located between Stephenson Point Road and Malaspina Crescent, were targeted by vandals days later.
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said the pamphlets did not constitute a hate crime.
“When I forwarded this to our hate crimes [investigators] they said this didn’t constitute a hate crime,” O’Brien said. It’s upsetting, and morally upsetting, but it didn’t meet the standards of a hate crime, but they’re taking a second look at it.”
The bus stop bench vandalism is being treated as a hate crime because of the content of the racial slurs and that they appeared to be specifically targeting Chinese realtors.
An e-mail response to the News Bulletin attributed to Paul Duncan Bentley, Putting Canada First chairman said, “…acts of vandalism and racist slogans are antithetical to our efforts.” The statement went on to say the organization encourages people to write to politicians and media with their concerns about “real estate abuse” in a peaceful and rational manner and all members have to agree to a code of conduct before before they are accepted by the organization.
Hilde Schlosar, executive director of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultral Scociety, said she reported the pamphlets to the RCMP and contacted the realtors to see if they wanted to take any action.
“Basically something like that just gives closet racists permission to act out what they might be thinking,” Schlosar said.
Schlosar characterized the vandalism as a cowardly, fear-based act and said there are people in Nanaimo who are racist and “hate everybody” but they don’t reflect the majority of people here.
“The most important thing is that we keep sending the message that says we are a welcoming community, we are an inclusive community,” Schlosar said. “Everybody can live here and feel safe and feel they belong and this is their home.”
Creative Outdoors, the company responsible for the ads, is carrying out the cleanup, which could cost up to $1,000.
Anyone with information about this incident, please contact the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, text 274637 with keyword Nanaimo, or leave a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.