Mayor denounces 5th case of racist vandalism in Saint-Honoré in last 2 months

The mayor of Saint-Honoré, Que., says he's called police after the municipality's welcome sign was vandalized with the words "Ville Blanche," meaning "White City," in red spray paint, the fifth such incident there since July.

'White city' scrawled on welcome sign to town where cemetery may serve as burial ground for Muslim community

The mayor of Saint-Honoré, Que., Bruno Tremblay, says it's the fifth time xenophobic signs and vandalism have appeared in the town near Saguenay. (Submitted by Bruno Tremblay)

The mayor of Saint-Honoré, Que., says he's called in the police after a municipal sign was vandalized overnight Wednesday with the words "Ville Blanche," meaning "White City," in red spray paint — the fifth such incident in the Saguenay-area town since July. 

Bruno Tremblay said he didn't warn police of the other incidents, letting the municipality take care of them itself, but five is too many, he added. 

"Enough is enough," Tremblay said. "We really want to find the culprit."

The first incident occurred on Jul. 20.

A wooden board bearing the words "Saguenay, White City" in French was affixed on top of the entrance sign of a local cemetery where the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region's Muslim community may bury their dead.

"I found it very xenophobic," the mayor told CBC at the time.

'A body's a body'

The incident happened shortly after residents of Saint-Apollinaire voted not to allow a Muslim cemetery there, sparking an outcry over the fact the main wish of Quebec's Muslim community following the killing of six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque in January was not granted. 

The Saguenay area's Islamic Association condemned the outcome of the vote and announced it would renew plans started in 2015 to have part of the city's cemetery designated for Muslim burials.

Part of the cemetery falls on Saint-Honoré land. 

"I've said since the beginning, a body's a body," Tremblay said Thursday. "If someone here is Chinese, we're not going to have them buried in China."

This sign appeared near the local church in July, with a similar one appearing the next day, suggesting the parish was being administered by an Islamic centre. (Submitted by Bruno Tremblay)

A week after the cemetery sign went up, two posters appeared on Jul. 24 and 25 in front of a church in the town, saying the parish's administration had been turned over to the "Islamic Cultural Centre of Saint-Honoré," which does not exist.

This sign appeared in front of Saint-Honoré's town hall Aug. 6, according to the mayor. (Submitted by Bruno Tremblay)

On Aug. 6, another poster appeared at the church, proclaiming "Saint-Honoré, Ville blanche" in what appeared to be black electrical tape.

'No one agrees with this'

Tremblay took the first sign down himself and said he chose not to alert police to the other incidents because he didn't want to draw attention to them, which he felt is exactly what those behind the signs wanted.

Wednesday's graffiti on the town hall's sign, however, tipped the scales.

"I find it sad, it's unfortunate," Tremblay said. "No one here agrees with this."

He said he's worried the incidents will make some feel unwelcome in the town.

SQ investigating

Tremblay said he would be posting on the city's social media accounts encouraging anyone with information to call the Sûreté du Québec, Quebec's provincial police.

The SQ confirmed it is investigating Wednesday's incident and looking for suspects.

"As of now, we are investigating the one that appeared this morning, whether there is a link with other incidents, we can't confirm that. We're just starting the investigation," said Sgt. Hélène Nepton.