May incident reported to parents only last week, described as “graffiti”
BY VOICE STAFF
Fenwick’s Wellington Heights Public School has been defaced with a swastika—a symbol notoriously associated with German Nazis during the Second World War and continued anti-Jewish bigotry today.
After a concerned community member contacted the Voice about the incident, a parent confirmed to the newspaper that their child was among the students who saw the symbol, which appeared on the school in mid-May. Neither the community member nor the parent wished to be named in this story.
Both the school’s principal and a spokesperson for the Niagara District School Board (DSBN) evaded answering directly when asked by the Voice to confirm the swastika’s existence.
The queries did, however, apparently prompt the principal, Mark Leduc, to send an email to parents last Tuesday, June 18, which read in part, “It has come to my attention that our local newspaper is planning to write an article about some vandalism that occurred at Wellington Heights in mid-May. The vandalism in question involved minimal graffiti on the back, exterior wall that was cleaned up by Mrs. DeRuiter and myself as soon as it was discovered.”
(Leduc’s email was forwarded to the Voice by a parent. Leduc did not reply to a request to confirm its authenticity.)
Asked specifically by the newspaper whether the school was defaced with a swastika, and if so what action the school took in response, Leduc replied, “I have not had any parent come to me inquiring about an incident involving graffiti to date. If you would like to redirect the parent I would be more than happy to address any questions that they might have regarding any graffiti.”
DSBN spokesperson Kim Yielding also used the term “graffiti” in reference to the swastika.
“I can confirm there was graffiti found at the school which was removed shortly after it was discovered. We don’t comment on the outcome of school investigations.”
Asked repeatedly to confirm whether the “graffiti” was in the form of a swastika, Yielding declined to answer.
Size estimates also varied, with Yielding telling the Voice that the defacement was “about the size of a toonie.” But in an email to Leduc from a community member and copied to the Voice, Leduc is said to have told a concerned parent that the defaced area was approximately a square foot in size.
Nancy Beamer, Pelham’s trustee on the DSBN, directed the paper’s request for comment to board Chair Sue Barnett, adding, “At this time the board has not passed any info to the trustees.”
Chair Barnett did not acknowledge multiple requests for comment.
According to Niagara Regional Police Service spokesperson Stephanie Sabourin, elsewhere in Niagara there were two reported incidents of hate-related vandalism in 2018, and two so far in 2019.
However, said Sabourin, such incidents are not always reported immediately.
“We would encourage members of the public to report vandalism, especially incidents that could be hate motivated, so they can be properly investigated.”
Formerly called E. W. Farr, in 2016 the DSBN controversially renamed the school to Wellington Heights, in memory of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. The advocacy group “Names Matter” objected to the renaming, in part due to anti-Semitic views held by Wellington. As British Prime Minister, Wellington stated in 1833 that he did not want Jews to settle in Britain.
“B’nai Brith Canada regards all incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti, especially at schools, as extremely concerning,” said Marty York, Chief Media Relations and Communications Officer for the advocacy group. “Our annual audit has recorded a steady rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Canada in recent years, and we urge school officials, parents and students to work together to stamp out all forms of hatred in Canadian society.”
“The Jewish community is deeply saddened to hear about a swastika drawn in one of our region’s schools,” said Rosalie Samosh, President of St. Catharines’ Congregation B’nai Israel.
“This is an opportunity to educate our young generation about the dangers of hate and the value of a kind and empathetic society.”
Hate at school
Reported anti-Semitic and racist graffiti incidents at Ontario schools alone in the last two years:
Anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled on a wall of Toronto’s Western Tech High School. Toronto Police assigned the case to its hate crimes unit. No arrests have been made.
For the second time in three months, swastikas were spray -painted at Bridlewood Community Elementary School in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. No arrests were made.
A swastika was spray-painted on the wall of St. George’s Public School in London. No arrests were made. The year before, local police charged two teenaged boys after anti-Muslim and homophobic slurs were spray-painted on another Thames Valley District School Board property.
Also in August 2018, Peel Regional Police charged three teens after hateful graffiti and swastikas were spray-painted on the wall of St. Edith Stein Elementary School in Mississauga.
Anti-Muslim graffiti was scrawled on the wall of Wali Ul Asr, a private Muslim school in the Scarborough section of Toronto. No arrests were made.
A Jewish club poster was defaced with holocaust-denying slurs at York Region’s Aurora High School. Police investigated the incident as a hate crime. No arrests were made.
The same month, a swastika was spray-painted on a sidewalk outside the Kamin Education Centre, a Jewish private school in Thornhill, also in York Region. No arrests were made.
Anti-black and anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled on a wall at Hartman Public School, also in Aurora. York Regional Police made no arrests.
Anti-Semitic and white supremacist graffiti was found on three separate Markham school properties —William Armstrong Public School, Reesor Park Public School, Markham District High School—in one weekend. No arrests were made.
Three youths turned themselves into police after anti-Semitic, anti-Black and homophobic slurs were spray- painted at Woodbridge College in Vaughan.
SOURCE: The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.