Nova Scotia

Holy Cross Cemetery in Halifax damaged by headstone vandalism

The group that maintains a south-end Halifax cemetery wants to educate — not punish — the vandals who pushed over or smashed historical headstones Monday night.

Cemetery volunteers say around 50 to 70 headstones damaged

Volunteers were horrified to see the extent of the damage to around 50 to 70 headstones in Holy Cross Cemetery. (Diane Paquette/CBC)

The group that maintains a south-end Halifax cemetery wants to educate — not punish — the vandals who damaged some historical headstones last Monday night.

"They've been pushed over and it's like a wave — a tsunami wave — that came up this section of cemetery along South Street," said Michael Nee with the Holy Cross Cemetery Trust. 

"There had to be a number of people involved because of the manner in which the pushing over of the stones and the breaking of the stones took place."

The trust to which Nee belongs is made up of volunteers who maintain the Holy Cross Cemetery and chapel.

Nee took a walk in the cemetery Tuesday morning and was horrified to see the extent of the damage to the headstones. He says 50 to 70 headstones have been damaged. 

"Well, I'm more than upset because as a group of volunteers, we've been here for eight years and we work here every Saturday morning and we've brought the cemetery back to a condition in which people can take pride. This has been really hard," he told CBC's Mainstreet.

'Our goal is education'

Nee said people who live in an apartment building on nearby South Street reported hearing unusual noises late Monday night.

"They did hear loud noises in cemetery close to midnight Monday evening," he said. 

This headstone remains broken in half in the Holy Cross Cemetery located at South and South Park streets in Halifax. (Diane Paquette/CBC)

"I can only assume they [the vandals] came in perhaps to have a beer or to socialize. I don't know if they came in with the intent to do the destruction that they did but they certainly did end up doing that."

Nee hopes anyone who happens to have heard or seen anything unusual near the cemetery will contact the police or the Catholic Archdiocese.

The trust would like to see the culprits found, he says.

"Our goal is not punishment. I think our goal is education. We would like these people to share the opportunity with us of restoring the damage that has been done," Nee said. 

"We would like to have these people working with us so they get an appreciation not only for the importance of our initiative but gaining some understanding that those who passed before us and made some contributions to our community — they deserve respect."

A lot of history in one place

Nee said his group will likely wait until the spring to begin fixing the damage to the headstones because winter weather is just around the corner.

The cemetery first opened in 1843. It's the final resting place for about 25,000 people, mostly of Irish Catholic heritage.

A former Canadian prime minister, Sir John S.D. Thompson, is buried there. He was prime minister in the late 1800s and is probably best known for dropping dead while dining with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on Dec.12, 1894.

"He was the first Roman Catholic Prime Minister of Canada," Nee said.

"He was visiting England at the time and having dinner with the Queen and passed away at the dinner table. The Queen was very, very gracious in terms of having a ship blackened for his transit back to Canada and then he was buried here."

Nee said an information sign next to Thomson's grave was slightly bent over by the vandals, but he was able to push it back into place.

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