The black paint on bilingual stop signs in Calgary is a literal black mark.
“It’s very discouraging. It’s a black eye on Calgary,” Suzanne de Courville Nicol, president of the Bureau de Visibilité de Calgary, told Global News on Saturday.
The black spray paint on the French portion of the stop signs in the Mission neighbourhood cover “arrêt,” which is French for “stop.”
“Calgary does not deserve that because Calgary is filled with people who are very open and welcoming,” de Courville Nicol said.
“Certainly, the neighbourhood, Mission District, which used to be Rouleauville, they’re very proud of the French heritage of their district.
“To have that happen, you throw up your arms and say, ‘But why?'”
Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas said news of the vandalism was disappointing, especially for community associations.
“It’s particularly sad because it really takes away from the hard work and the commitment of our community volunteers, most notably our community associations,” Farkas told Global News Saturday.
“The stop signs were just one piece of what they were doing to help try to build up their community and honour their heritage and where they come from.”
The neighbourhood began as Rouleauville in 1899 with its incorporation as a city. The city was amalgamated into Calgary eight years later.
The bilingual stop signs marked the 120th anniversary of that city’s incorporation, with installation in October 2019.
Farkas and Mayor Naheed Nenshi brought the notice of motion for the privately funded signs, which was passed by city council.
The stop signs are just one way the area publicly remembers its history.
“We have put up signs recognizing the original names of these streets in our community,” Bob Lang, president of the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association, told Global News.
“One is the east part, which is Mission. Obviously, all of those names are related to the Catholic church. Then west of 4 Street S.W. is a CPR land grant and they were recognizing the CPR bosses and their names.
“There is a park at 1 Street S.W. between 17 and 18 Avenue that has information kiosks that you can either read or hear some of the history of the community,” Lang said.
‘A few bad apples’
“I always knew a little bit about the historic origins of Rouleauville but it really impressed me the more I found out about it,” Farkas said.
“The fact that Calgary has been home to many, many different people who have come from across the world to come here and start a new life for themselves and their families.
For Farkas, the city’s heritage is a strength to be drawn upon.
“When we remember where we’ve come from and honour our history, it’s Calgary at our finest. So there’s always going to be a few bad apples but that doesn’t come anywhere close to ruining what makes Calgary special.”
Bylaw officers are investigating the vandalism and the Bureau de Visibilité de Calgary has taken steps to clean the stop signs.
Rather than be angry, de Courville Nicol hopes to move the conversation forward.
“I wish I could speak to whoever did this just to get the dialogue going because I’m sure if this or these people knew the history, I can’t imagine they would do what they did,” she said.