'Senseless and disrespectful crime': Commemorative plaques stolen from Griesbach neighbourhood

As many as 20 metal commemorative plaques honouring some of Canada’s most decorated soldiers and most famous military battles have been stolen off the streets in the Griesbach community.

'As a community, we are devastated,' says Edmonton community league president

Historic plaques stolen from Edmonton neighbourhood

CBC News Edmonton

4 years ago
Brad Tilley from the Griesbach Community League tells how plaques commemorating Canadian soldiers and battles were stolen from Edmonton’s Griesbach neighbourhood. 1:04

As many as 20 metal commemorative plaques honouring some of Canada's most decorated soldiers and most famous battles have been stolen off the streets in the Griesbach community.

The community league, in a statement issued Tuesday, said the "brazen and co-ordinated robbery" took place on Sunday or Monday.

The stolen plaques, placed on cement-and-brick stands at the end of each street, tell the stories of the soldiers or battles for which the street was named.

Many honoured the nation's Victoria Cross winners, including John Chipman Kerr and Cecil John Kinross.

One plaque told the story of the Second World War battle of Ortona.

About 20 plaques like this one were stolen recently off the streets in the Griesbach community. (Griesbach Community League)

"As a community, we are devastated," Griesbach community league president Brad Tilley said Tuesday in a news release.

"Residents take great pride in our neighbourhood's unique character and the ways it remembers those who sacrificed so much for our country. It is an absolutely senseless and disrespectful crime."

A former garrison, Griesbach has been transformed over the past decade into a residential community by Canada Lands Corporation. Statues, signs and memorials throughout the community celebrate Canada's military heritage.

People who live in the north Edmonton community began to notice some of the signs were missing in the past couple of days and asked the community league what was happening through its Facebook page.

Bryan Evans, who manages the page, said people feel a strong affinity to the plaques and the Canadian heroes they honour.

"Our whole community is built upon that history — the street names, the park names, the names of our lakes," Evans said.   

Tilley said the community league hopes the plaques can be recovered intact and reinstalled. He said he is concerned the thieves may try to melt down the plaques (which are a metal alloy and not a pure bronze) and sell them for salvage.

But, he added, the melted down metal wouldn't be worth very much.

Brad Tilley is asking for the safe return of the missing plaques. He said they're made from a metal alloy not bronze and so would not be very valuable even if melted down. (Martin Weaver/CBC)

"Veterans and their families travel from afar to visit our community and see how it pays tribute to our soldiers," Tilley said. "It is a real dishonour to those who have served. There are still several plaques within the community. We hope they don't try to come back to get these as well."

Neighbours are checking their own video surveillance to look for possible leads given some of the missing plaques were just steps away from homes in the area.

Tilley believes there had to have been a fair amount of planning given how heavy the plaques are and because special tools would be needed to remove the bolts attaching them to the concrete.

Police were called out to the community Tuesday morning and are now beginning their investigation.

Anyone with information about the thief or surveillance footage that may identify the culprits is asked to contact the Edmonton police.

While the developer helped pay for the plaques when the neighbourhood was built, the community since agreed to maintain them.

Tilley said replacing so many plaques could cost tens of thousands of dollars, which the community league cannot afford. So he's asking for the safe return of the plaques.

The community league says the plaques were stolen on July 23 or July 24. (Griesbach Community League)