A photo of one of the signs — a large, orange square sign with Gill’s face and name — shared on social media showed black spray paint scrawled across the sign that read: “Go back MF….”
The vandalism was described as “horrible and disgusting” by Twitter user Serena-Rae Moar, who shared the image.
“It was unfortunate, hurtful but we’re on a positive campaign, so we’re not going to let that get to us,” Gill told Global News on Tuesday.
“We’re going to continue moving forward.”
Gill said he first learned of the defaced and damaged signs at about 7 a.m. on Monday after receiving several phone calls
“A couple have been taken down, left at home. Some were just knocked down, broken off the stands. Some had my face cut out and then some had some offensive language and slurs written on it.”
The damaged signs appeared in several locations, including Martindale, Westwinds and near 80 Avenue, Gill said. He said his team is focusing on taking them down as fast as possible.
While the vandalism — which Gill described as a hate crime in a Facebook post about the attack on his campaign — was hurtful, Gill said the signs have also sparked an outpouring of support.
“A lot of individuals have given positive… a lot support, a lot of loving messages that have been coming throughout the last couple of days. So it has been an overwhelming amount of support. It’s been awesome how everyone has come together,” Gill said.
The image of the spray-painted sign tweeted by Moar was retweeted more than 200 times by Tuesday afternoon, with dozens of Twitter users calling the actions racist and inappropriate.
“Not okay,” wrote Ryan Acheson. “No one should be treated this way.”
WATCH: Global News coverage of racism and racist actions during the 2019 federal election
User hollywood L wrote: “Despite the diversity in my riding, it’s clear that the inclusion component still has a long way to go. What a shame.”
Calgary police investigating as hate crime
Calgary police confirmed on Tuesday the vandalism is being investigated as a hate crime, adding that the defaced signs were first reported to authorities by an off-duty member, then the campaign.
“This incident is much like any other, it’s a criminal offence — it’s a mischief offence in the Criminal Code — and that’s what the police service is looking at,” said Senior Const. Craig Collins with the hate crimes unit.
Collins said the racist comments mean this investigation will be a two-tiered one.
“Because of those comments, that would require, not a secondary investigation, but because of the hateful nature of it, the service conducts another investigation into the bias behind those comments because they’re seen as an aggravated factor — that’s where the hate crime unit would come into play,” he said.
Collins said the investigation into the damaged signs is being treated just like any other case of hate-motivated or racist graffiti.
“Mr. Gill is an NDP candidate but if he wasn’t an NDP candidate and his home had just been attacked and he was just a normal person, he’d receive the same level of investigation that he’s currently receiving. So there’s no special attention here, we take all matters very seriously, and particularly when there’s hate and bias involved in any offence.”
Investigations into acts of vandalism are challenging in that the evidence can sometimes be spread out, Collins said, adding that officers resort to old-fashioned policing techniques, like canvassing businesses, searching for CCTV video and examining footage from traffic cameras to gather evidence.
Collins said this is the first instance of vandalism of election signs in Calgary during this election cycle. If anyone sees someone vandalizing a sign or sees evidence of an act of vandalism, they’re encouraged to report it to the Calgary Police Service.
— With files from Lisa MacGregor, Global News