UPDATE: Calgary police said on Sept. 2 that a man had been arrested and charged in relation to the vandalism, however, were not releasing the man’s name “on compassionate grounds,” due to mental health concerns.
Calgary police need help to find a suspect who set fire to the memorial for residential school victims at city hall on Tuesday night.
On Aug. 3 just before 11:30 p.m., a security guard was monitoring CCTV and saw a man lighting the memorial and running away.
Security guards extinguished the fire and called for help, prompting police and fire department responses.
Several shoes and other objects were heavily damaged, police said.
The hate crimes and extremism unit is investigating to “ensure any evidence of hate motivation is captured and handled appropriately.”
“It is still too early to know what motivated the suspect, and investigators need time to investigate,” police said in a news release on Wednesday
“We are very aware of the current tensions in the community around residential schools and the acts of vandalism and arson that have been occurring. We will examine whether there is any connection in this case, but we are asking people in the meantime to be patient while we work to identify the suspect.”
Several Calgary churches have been vandalized and set on fire since the horrific discoveries of more than 1,100 unmarked graves at former residential schools across Canada beginning in May.
Autumn EagleSpeaker has been tending to the memorial and feels hurt by the vandalism.
“My heart is really broken by the actions, but unfortunately, it’s really not surprising. I think that what is happening here is really an indication of some deep-down residual feelings of hate and racism that a batch of people have,” she said.
“Unfortunately, this action just shows that no matter how much we’re doing, how much education we’re doing, how many protests we’re doing, it’s still not enough. I think that change within our society to change racism in itself has to come from each other.”
Police said the suspect has short hair and was wearing a black baseball hat, a black backpack, blue jeans, white-soled shoes and a long-sleeve plaid shirt.
If you have information, call the police non-emergency line at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.