2018-10-17

Vandalism will not alter the past



  • <p>File photo</p><p>The Halifax War Memorial in Point Pleasant Park.</p>

We are less than a month away from marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, and what sadly turned out not to be "the war to end all wars," but the First World War. With November approaching, I'll read more stories about veterans.

However, I was not prepared to read one story about a war memorial in Halifax. The images hit me in the gut, and I had to wonder what went through the minds of the vandals as they spread paint over the Sailors' Memorial in Point Pleasant Park. Were they drunk, stoned or simply lost in the lust to cause damage.

The vandals plastered anti-war messages on the Sailors' Memorial as if the damage would end all wars. In reality, they dishonoured those who brought war to an end. If they knew anything about history directly affecting Canadians, perhaps they would have thought twice, but then hooligans don't think; they only act out for attention.

Unfortunately, disrespectful vandals are in the news more often, spreading their ignorance as monuments and headstones in cemeteries across the province are broken or toppled. It's almost as if they don't give thought to anyone who came before them. They care only about themselves and have no connection with their ancestors or their community.

Life is about connections, and genealogists know this better than many. Studies have shown kids who learn about their family history are not only connected to the past but more grounded. It also gives them an appreciation of the hardships many suffered in the past.

There is no other time in history when humans have enjoyed such wealth and ease, especially in Canada, but often it is those with easy lives who never appreciate what they have. Because of the brave souls on that war memorial, these vandals have the freedoms they do.

I wonder, would knowing the history of one of those names engraved in stone have stopped the vandalism? What if the vandal was related to one of those names and knew the connection? Would they be so eager to scour his name in paint?

But this goes further than that. The acceptance by supposedly responsible adults of vandalism on public monuments has created an opportunity for these cowards to justify their actions. I mean, if they can vandalize Edward Cornwallis' statue and gain public support, what message is sent to the hooligans who did this to the war memorial?

Vandalizing public property is wrong in every instance. Just because you don't agree with the message or the honour, others do.

Punishment for such crimes are often not harsh enough. The individuals who committed this crime should pay for restoration plus do community work. They should also be forced to write a 5,000-word report on one of the names on that monument. Putting a face and tragic story to a name has a better chance of changing attitudes than jail time.

The Sailors' Memorial contains a total of 3128 names. Of these, 270 are from the First World War, and 2,858 are from the Second World War. The men served in the Royal Canadian Navy (1,492), Merchant Navy (1,306) and the army (330).

Visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (https://www.cwgc.org), enter "Halifax Memorial" in the search box and click Cemeteries & Memorials to view the records of those listed on the memorial.

Diane Lynn McGyver Tibert, author of Scattered Stones, is a freelance writer based in Central Nova Scotia. Visit her Roots to the Past blog (https://rootstothepast.wordpress.com) to learn more about her genealogy writing.

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