Shortly after Malvern Collegiate’s historic First World War monument was vandalized last November, Canada’s veterans affairs minister Steven Blaney promised tougher laws, saying he was “appalled and saddened”.
This year, using the southeast Toronto high school as a backdrop, he offered additional support – funding to help restore vandalized memorials.
“In the near future, I plan to introduce an initiative which will help fast-track applications for funding to assist in repairing damage to cenotaphs and monuments as a result of vandalism,” said Blaney in a statement on Nov. 8.
He was represented at the school by his parliamentary secretary Eve Adams, the MP for Mississauga-Brampton South.
In last year’s announcement, Blaney announced the tougher laws would come about through government support of a private members bill from one of its own members, David Tilson (Dufferin-Caledon).
That bill is now in the hands of the senate after just recently passing third and final reading by MPs in the House of Commons. When passed by the senate, the bill would impose a minimum $1,000 fine for a first offense with second and third offenses carrying minimum 14- and 30-day prison sentences.
While Tories and Liberals supported the bill, NDP MPs all voted against, including Matthew Kellway, the Beaches-East York MP (whose riding covers Malvern CI).
He explained his opposition during the first reading of the bill earlier in the year:
“It seems that all transgressions under government and private members’ bills coming from the other side seem to end with someone getting incarcerated, as if incarceration is a redeeming and ennobling exercise.”
He then referred to a statement he had received from Dr. Vandra Masemann, president of Malvern’s alumni association and also chair of the war memorial restoration committee, who also opposed the bill.
She wrote, in part:
“I ponder on who are going to be the ones that do these things (vandalize war memorials) – young males around 18 to 24. These boys are the same as the Boys of Malvern who died and who are remembered on that monument. We cannot rescue those boys who died, but we can rescue the ones who have done such a foolish and stupid thing as to vandalize a war memorial.
“We need to be much more creative about the kind of consequence that will teach them the awful significance of what they have done. Giving them a criminal record and letting them learn nothing from the experience is of no redemptive significance whatsoever. It is imperative that they understand the nature of the act they have committed, and surely their cell-mates will not be able to do this.”
Malvern’s Memorial was vandalized last year just before Remembrance Day – and just days after an official re-dedication ceremony to celebrate its restoration.
The school, its alumni and the community had joined forces to restore the aging memorial at a cost of more than $50,000 over six years – only to see it vandalized.
The $2,000 ransacking was soon cleaned up and improved lighting and security cameras added.
Police are still looking for the suspects.
“The journey to get to this point was not easy,” said Line Pinard, the school’s principal for the last nine years, crediting parent Arnie Williamson for all of his hard work to get the ball rolling on the restoration project.
- with files from Joanna Lavoie