Trudeau reacts to anti-Syrian graffiti on southeast Calgary school
Latest anti-Syrian graffiti is hurtful but refugees overwhelmed by love, says volunteer
The Calgary Board of Education rushed to clean off hateful graffiti on Monday morning, but for far too long this weekend the words "Syrians Go Home and Die" and other slogans stained the brick walls of Wilma Hansen Junior High in southeast Calgary.
The graffiti also targeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who took to Twitter to condemn the vandalism.
"Canadians have shown the best of our country in welcoming refugees. That spirit won't be diminished by fear and hate," he tweeted on Monday.
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The messages on the Queensland-area school shocked and saddened Najwa Habood, who volunteers with the Syrian Refugees Support Group and who came to Canada as an immigrant from Syria in 1990.
But she's quick to point out it's an exception to the norm.
"I can tell you, this is hurting Canadians more than newcomers themselves, as Canadians and Calgarians have invested so much love, time, even donations, a lot of it, to help to resettle those new families in Calgary," she said.
That sentiment is echoed by Cathy Madley, who lives in the neighbourhood.
"It's against us really, isn't it? When you stop and think of it. It's demeaning all of us who do live here," she said.
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Police were notified of the graffiti on Sunday afternoon around 3:10 p.m. after a pedestrian noticed the messages scrawled on the school.
A Calgary Board of Education (CBE) spokesperson said the organization is "very disappointed any time something like this happens at a CBE school or building," and works with police to clean up the vandalism as quickly as possible.
Habood hopes that education on the issue becomes a focus if it turns out to be students who painted the walls of the school.
"To tell them that those refugees are coming here and they're not taking anything away," she said.
"They fled a country of conflict and war and just horror to come here to this country. They're coming here to find peace and they're coming here to live as Canadians and contribute to this country."
And while an incident like this stings, it's contrary to what those who have fled the war in Syria are contending with on a regular basis.
"The amount of love is overwhelming to the new Syrians," said Habood.
Police say the hate crimes investigator will likely take the lead in the investigation.
But it's not the first time something like this has happened. Two months ago, the Tuscany LRT station was defaced with graffiti urging violence against Syrians and Muslims.
The two men charged with that crime will be back in court Tuesday.
"I think we need to educate people on the diversity of people. We also need people who have racist experiences and incidents and hate crimes to report them, because without the stats, the government, the police system can't do anything about it," said Iman Bukhar with the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation.