Cleanup on the way for vandalized monuments at the Chinese Cemetery

National Heritage Site damaged by vandals with red paint

Vandals have damaged the Chinese Cemetery National Heritage Site with red paint.

Vandals have damaged the Chinese Cemetery National Heritage Site with red paint.



Red marks splashed across a historic altar and headstones may hold no malice, but the community is in an uproar over the “disgrace.”

Vandals sprayed red paint on the twin towers near the altar at the Chinese Cemetery at Harling Point, in Oak Bay. Oak Bay Police say the vandalism discovered at the national heritage site Sept. 29 doesn’t appear to be racially motivated.

“There’s absolutely no indication of that, it just appears at this point that it’s just straight graffiti; graffiti in bad taste,” said Deputy Chief Kent Thom, Oak Bay Police.

Growing up in Victoria, Charlayne Thornton-Joe was always a regular visitor to the picturesque cemetery that operated from 1903 until the early 1950s.

“They are tags. Somebody must have just gone through with red spay paint and tagged the altar and a couple of the headstones,” said Thornton-Joe, a Victoria councillor who routinely guides tours through the cemetery that includes her grandfather’s grave. “Many years ago there were some tags that were more racial in comment, this one is just as far as I can tell are just markings. Nevertheless it is considered vandalism and it is upsetting. I think it’s just somebody who thought it would be fun, they saw the surfaces ands thought they would tag them, not recognizing that it is a national heritage site and a lot of value there, not only to the Chinese community but the community at large.”

Since news broke of the damage, Thornton-Joe has heard outrage from cohorts, friends and neighbours through social media, email and in person, most calling the vandalism a “disgrace.”

“The outrage has come from the broader community. The community at large are upset about it. But it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with hate, or be racial in any way. It’s just some irresponsible, inconsiderate person,” Thornton-Joe said.

While the cemetery is private property, it’s left open for residents and tours to enjoy as well as those who still visit ancestor graves.

“It’s a lovely property. It no longer has burial there but there are those who go visit family members, and there is public access,” Thornton-Joe said. “Currently it is open to the public and it is an expectation that people will respect the historic and cultural aspect of it.”

https://www.nfb.ca/film/from_harling_point

Thornton-Joe contacted the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association which owns the property and they authorized her to organize cleanup.

“Unfortunately the difficultly is if someone tags your fence or a hydro pole or a bench you can power wash it or paint over it. This is stone that is 110 if not more years old so we have to be very careful how we remove it,” Thornton-Joe said.

The Hallmark Society will evaluate the stone and Goodbye Graffiti offered their services for cleanup.

“They require some care and attention. It will be removed and will not cause permanent damage to the altar and the markers that have been vandalized,” said Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society, the oldest heritage preservation society in the Capital Regional District.

The altar and headstones are made of concrete, said Johnson, a conservator of stone and concrete.

“It’s definitely a hand process and certainly for the alter there are some other issues. Once the graffiti has been removed the Chinese Benevolent Association may want to do some conservation steps on the altar itself, it is starting to deteriorate,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to end up damaging something. Some of the monuments it looks like they have been painted themselves and we don’t want to be removing two paints.”

While Thornton-Joe hopes to have the cleanup organized by the weekend, the Oak Bay police investigation is suspended pending more information.

“We keep a log book with tags and we compare them when we get new ones and this is not similar to other tags that we’ve had,” Thom said.

Graffiti tends to ebb and flow in Oak Bay, and it hasn’t been a significant issue recently.

“It goes in bits and spurts. Once in a while we’ll have kids or even adults who are more prone to do this sort of thing. We’ve made arrests in the past where we’ve caught them,” Thom said. “We’ll get a series of these … and then it just seems to die out. We haven’t had anything like this happen in some time, not that’s been brought to our attention.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media file photo)
Court-registered sex offender arrested for breach of parole in Langford

Cameron Ratelle returned to correctional facility after female youth approached at bus stop

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

Marc Porpaczy said he’s glad he delayed his daily walk with his dog, Juno, after a car crashed just outside his driveway just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dramatic crash highlights need for sidewalks, say Colwood residents

‘The residents have gone from frustrated to angry’

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Most Read