Friday, November 12, 2010

Vandals who attempted to intimidate mayor have the wrong target

Shattered glass litters the back seat of the mayor's car, covering the safety seat and a stuffed toy. Photograph by the B Channel News.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 9, 2010


They came under cover of darkness with mischief in mind.

They snuck around a modest bungalow on a quiet street. The intruders targeted a home in a middle-class area of Victoria known as Oaklands, where the lawns are tidy and the neighbours friendly.

They spray-painted a number on a brown aluminum door. They went to the north side of the house to paint two letters.

On the car parked in the driveway, they spray-painted four letters in red.

They smashed the right rear passenger window. Glass spilled inside onto a child’s booster seat, showering a small stuffed pink pig.

No one heard a thing.

As far as is known, they took nothing — other than, briefly, a neighbourhood’s sense of well being.

Sleeping inside the home were two young girls and their parents, Donna Sanford and Dean Fortin, the city’s mayor.

“The family’s quite resilient. We’re upbeat,” Mr. Fortin said Sunday afternoon. “As mayor, I’ve just to go keep on doing the work we do.”

He had a busy weekend with a fundraising dinner on Saturday night, followed by a coaching session with his nine-year-old daughter’s basketball team on Sunday afternoon. There were leaves to be raked and compost to be spread.

The family car had to be taken to the shop and the graffiti had to be painted over.

Self-proclaimed militants issued a communique claiming credit. It is a document of childish invective and witless Weather Underground-era sloganeering about it being “time to take the fight directly to the pig politicians and give them a taste of their own medicine.”

The mayor is called “fatcat Fortin” and another alliterative expletive.

He is called a fascist.

Here’s a history lesson for homeless-by-choice political activists — attacking a family home under cover of darkness was a tactic favoured by fascist street thugs 70 years ago.

Here’s another history lesson. The vandalism occurred on the morning of Guy Fawkes Day, celebrated on these shores by armchair revolutionaries who romanticize a martyred would-be assassin without acknowledging his anti-revolutionary goal it was to bring a Catholic to the throne.

The tedious language of the communique echoes the insults to be found in the Front de Liberation du Quebec manifesto read on-air during the October Crisis 40 years ago last month. Is it possible one of the culprits recently watched a documentary on those events?

To top it off, the militants conjured a name for themselves as PG 72, which was spray-painted on the Fortin residence. PG stands for Pandora Green, a lawn-covered traffic island downtown on which a recent bylaw restricts overnight sleeping and camping. Seventy-two represents shelter beds recently lost.

Even in their numbers the militants are wrong. The loss of temporary spaces is more than made up by a recent increase in permanent accommodations and in the availability of shelter mats under an extreme weather protocol.

Those who work most closely with the homeless condemned the attack. Rev. Al Tysick called the vandalism disturbing and based on misinformation. The Victoria Cool Aid Society called the mayor “one of the best friends” of the poor and homeless, adding that “we ask citizens not to lose faith because of the misguided actions of a few.”

The mayor will not comment on the language found in the communique. The Victoria police said the language is considered threatening and is being investigated.

The communique also includes the mayor’s address.

It is not hard to find. He is listed in the telephone directory.

The home addresses of the 11 candidates running for a city council seat in a by-election later this month are also included in city advertisements. Victoria remains that kind of place and the mayor vows not to change the practice.

“We should be accessible,” he said.

His first official act of business in the hours after discovering the vandalism was a two-hour open-door session at city hall in which any citizen can claim 10 minutes of the mayor’s time.

The mayor has received calls from MLAs on both sides of the Legislature. City councillors offered him and his family a place to stay this weekend. The local community centre dropped off flowers and a potted plant.

As well, one of the neighbours came by and swept up the glass in the driveway.

Other attacks on politicians in B.C.

In 1977, an activist who said he belonged to a group called the New Questioning Coyote Brigade struck Progressive Conservative leader leader Joe Clark in the face with a coconut-cream pie. The dessert-wielding assailant was Brent Taylor, an activist later convicted for serious acts of sabotage, including the bombing of a factory in Toronto in which missile components were manufactured. Others pied in 1977: provincial cabinet minister Bill Vander Zalm and federal cabinet ministers Ron Basford and Marc Lalonde, those actions claimed by the Groucho Marxist cell of the Anarchist Party of Canada.

In 1982, a speech by the federal external affairs minister was cut short after prolonged heckling. Outside, he was surrounded by a small, angry mob. An aide was kicked in the shins and the minister was spat on by a young woman. Mark MacGuigan escaped from the ugly curbside scene when spirited away by car.

An angry gauntlet of 500 trade unionists jostled and swore at members of the Social Credit cabinet in 1972 after it imposed a return to work and compulsory arbitration in a construction industry dispute. Chanting “Seig heil!” and targeting Jim Chabot, the labour minister, with the rhyming chant of “Chabot must go!”, the protestors struck Attorney General Leslie Peterson at least twice with placards.

In 2002, a crude firebomb was tossed into the high-school office of Nancy Campbell, wife of Premier Gordon Campbell. Earlier in the year, another firebomb had been shoved through the mail slot of his constituency office.

The constituency office of NDP Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh was firebombed in a pre-dawn attack in December, 1999. Sprinklers limited the damage. Before going into politics, Mr. Dosanjh, outspoken in his criticism of Sikh extremists, was beaten nearly to death with a lead pipe outside his law office.

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