Edmonton

Morinville church vandalized, RCMP say possible hate crime

This Sunday will mark three weeks since a church in the heart of Morinville was vandalized -- “I love Satin” spray painted in blue on the side of the brick building, “I hate God” on the sidewalk. ”It is a community crime as well as a crime against the church so it affects everybody,”

'It is a community crime as well as a crime against the church so it affects everybody,' say RCMP

RCMP say late on April 3 or early in the morning on April 4, vandals spray-painted this church with "I love Satin" and "I hate God." A nearby post office had a swastika sprayed on it. (CBC)

This Sunday will mark three weeks since a church in the heart of Morinville was vandalized -- "I love Satin" spray painted in blue on the side of the brick building, "I hate God" on the sidewalk.

Words that, despite the spelling mistake, have shaken the small town north of Edmonton and have RCMP there still searching for suspects and answers in what they're characterizing as a potential hate crime.

"It is a community crime as well as a crime against the church so it affects everybody," said RCMP Corp. Sheldon Robb speaking outside the St. Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic church, a towering historic structure on Morinville's main street.

"It's very possible this may be hate crime motivated, it's very possible, we can't rule that out. We do have some leads we're following up on."

RCMP said they've spoken to a potential eye witness and plan to speak to that person again, but so far that's all they've got.

The same night the church was targeted, businesses in town were also sprayed with blue spray paint, the post office had a swastika drawn on of its walls. RCMP believe all of the incidents are connected.

Robb said the spelling of 'Satin' doesn't lessen the severity of the crime and he refused to speculate on possible suspects who perhaps can't spell.

"I can't really speculate on that ... not going to pigeon hole (this crime) to a specific group or age," he said.   

The church, the post office and the businesses have since been scrubbed clean, with an RCMP member helping with the clean up.

"This is relatively new to Morinville, specifically hitting the church," said Robb.

'Worth tracking' says hate crime researcher

The spray-painted swatizka and general comments about God and religion are just one of several recent incidents in small towns throughout Alberta.

In March, a new gymnasium in Ponoka that the town spent seven years raising money for was broken into and the words "white power" were spray painted on the wall along with a swastika.

As well, an electric sign in St. Albert was hacked to display a racist message.

In October 2014 a mosque in Cold Lake was spray-painted with the words "Go home" and "Canada." Vandals also smashed two of the mosque's windows.

Incidents like these are being watched by Irfan Chaudry, a hate crime researcher and a criminology instructor at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

"This is something that should also be tracked and monitored to ensure this isn't part of a larger issue," said Chaudry, adding the recent incident shouldn't alarm people, as he suspects it's a case of mischief rather than a hate crime.

"It shouldn't be something that we'd be concerned about... at the same time though it shouldn't be taken lightly," he said.

Chaudry said April 20, Adolf Hitler's birthday, can often trigger what he calls "hate incidents," or vandalism.

"Sometimes some people ... they do little mischief graffiti type of incidents like this to either commemorate or showcase something."

Chaudry said incidents such as what happened at the Morinville Church are likely not connected to other spates of vandalism involving hateful messages in the last year in Alberta, but again, he said it's worth tracking.

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