The mayor of a town in southeast New Brunswick says he believes an act of vandalism was the result of community controversy about armoured vehicles and their presence in the town.
John Higham, Sackville’s mayor, says a definition of the Memorial Park needs to be clearly established.
“This debate has gotten very, very personal and some very, very strong opinions on both sides, and people are acting inappropriately,” he said.
The vandalism, which he says was graffiti on the armoured vehicle – a Ferret – took place between Friday night and Saturday morning, said Higham.
“I was disgusted to see what they had done to the car,” says Doreen Richards, the president of the Sackville Legion.
But the mayor believes the incident is connected to public backlash over plans to install a second armoured vehicle in the park.
“Oh I believe so,” he says. “It would be a bit of a stretch, but it was vulgar, inappropriate vandalism, that graffiti in essence, that we haven’t seen before. So the timing seems to be linked to some of the other things that are going on.”
Town councillors in Sackville voted to accept the second vehicle, known as an AVGP Cougar, in February from the 8th Canadian Hussars, but tensions grew when the town was getting ready to install it.
Alex Thomas, a resident who lives near the park and is opposed to a second armoured vehicle being installed, says the community needs to “be really careful of what we’re putting on pedestals in our public parks.”
“I really believe that this glorifies the violence of war rather than memorializing it,” he says. “I really think there’s better ways to do that, and the cenotaph here is a really powerful piece, and I really think that such a giant vehicle in the park would detract from that.”
Thomas calls the vandalism “shameful,” saying it should be condemned. He says the graffiti wouldn’t have been from a member of the “dozens” involved in the group opposed to the second vehicle.
Richards says she’s frustrated by the debate but is confident the Cougar will be installed.
“It doesn’t glorify war; it’s a vehicle representing the army, the navy and the Air Force,” she says. “It’s there to let people these vehicles; it’s a memorial park, it’s for the veterans, it’s not a play park.”
The mayor says the fundamental of the debate is about a passion for the community.
“The irony of all this is, this is why people fought for wars, was to have this kind of a democratic discussion.”
But, he says the graffiti and some online threats are very disappointing.
The plan remains to put in the second vehicle, he says, but councillors will hear public presentations from both sides of the debate at their first meeting in July.
Sackville RCMP didn’t return calls for this story.