Victoria’s Chinese community had something extra to be thankful for during the season of gratitude.
By the time Thanksgiving was being celebrated throughout the capital region, an act of vandalism at the community’s historic resting place in Oak Bay had been cleaned up.
“I was really pleased with the amount of people in the greater community, whether from Oak Bay or the Capital Regional District as a whole, who were equally concerned,” Charlayne Thornton-Joe said.
The Victoria city councillor was recalling community reaction to graffiti vandalism on the altar and some headstones at the Harling Point cemetery. A neighbour reported the vandalism to police on Sept. 29.
After Oak Bay Police notified the Old Cemeteries Society, president Gerry Buydens contacted Thornton-Joe, who leads tours of the Chinese Cemetery for the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
Thornton-Joe called Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Society, for advice on how to clean it up.
“He went down and analyzed it and made some recommendations,” said Thornton-Joe, who originally thought she and Johnson might be able to remove the red spray paint themselves.
Johnson expressed concerns about how to remove paint safely from such old gravestones, and how to get water onto the premises, she said.
“Then Kevan Cooper [owner of Goodbye Graffiti] contacted me and said he’d be happy to donate his time and anything we need, and they have their own truck with water.”
She said although the defacing couldn’t be regarded as typical graffiti “tags,” time was of the essence since there were fears others might want to add tags, she said.
“It actually just looked like somebody walked through and spray-painted it,” she said. “There was nothing that could be identified as anything, really.”
Thornton-Joe said she was thankful the vandalism didn’t contain racial slurs.
“Thirty years ago, we did get some graffiti with racial slurs and that was more upsetting,” she said.
Still, it’s distressing that someone would choose to deface property in any cemetery, Thornton-Joe said.
“It’s sad they never considered that it’s a cemetery, whether it’s Chinese or any cemetery,” she said.
“Hopefully, the person who did this will read about it and realize the impact of what they did.”
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