Berj Merdjanian says he saw the lettering early Saturday morning when he went to work at his photo studio in the city’s Saint-Laurent borough.
What he saw was spray-painted profanity and antiwar messages in red lettering across the white cenotaph, hours before ceremonies were set to begin around the city at 11 a.m.
The graffiti read “F*** la guerre, F*** l’armée” (which translates to “f*** the war, f*** the army”), Montreal police told Global News.
“It’s an insult to the army, and to soldiers that died for us, and even now I feel emotional because every time I see it I get goosebumps,” he said in a phone interview.
Merdjanian says city workers arrived quickly to remove the messages, but not before they were seen by several citizens who had arrived early to pay their respects.
He said several of them became emotional when they saw the vandalism, including a family with three children who quickly left the park.
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He says he understands some people may feel they have a message to deliver, but they should have chosen a different time and place.
“They should say something (openly) or go to City Hall, but not this,” he said. “And the worst is they did it in the colour of blood, that’s not right.”
Merdjanian sent photos of the vandalism to Montreal police, who confirmed on Sunday that they are investigating.
Montreal police spokesperson said that so far no witnesses have come forward and it doesn’t appear the incident was caught on video.
Police are expected to interview residents and check local surveillance footage in the coming days.
© 2017 The Canadian Press