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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Friday, December 9, 2022
Editorial: More than an act of vandalism
Editorial. Supplied

Perhaps it was inevitable.

One rainbow bench installed, one case of vandalism.

The fact Niagara-on-the-Lake’s lone (so far) rainbow bench has been defaced by vandals is not a surprise.

It’s just disappointing.

Some people in NOTL have been against the idea of the town-funded rainbow crosswalk and five rainbow benches approved by council earlier this year but, having stated their objections, many of them also accepted the reality that it was going to happen.

Now, the lowest common denominator has reared its ugly head and chosen to damage the bench. That is really unfortunate.

And far from proving that the rainbow celebration idea was misguided, we think it reinforces how necessary it is for the community to acknowledge those who are LGBTQ or people who support those who are.

For now, the colourful bench has been removed from its spot in Centennial Sports Park in Virgil.

It will be repaired and back in service at the community park in a few weeks.

What prompted this act of vandalism? We don’t know, but we can guess.

Ignorance. Stupidity. Maliciousness. Maybe blatant homophobia … are all words that come to mind.

As Remembrance Day approaches, it really is sad to be reporting and commenting on this sort of behaviour by some elements within the community. Those who fought for our freedom in world wars and other conflicts, while not knowing it then, also were defending the rights of those who are LGBTQ.

It has long been our view that sunlight is the best disinfectant when such sad spectacles as this – or racist incidents, antisemitism, sexism, misogyny and other similar acts – are perpetrated.

Society and our leaders need to shine a light on them, talk about them, denounce them and help educate those who might perpetrate them.

That’s why we are concerned with how the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has, in part at least, handled this incident. Kudos to the town, firstly, for posting about the incident on social media. A great start.

But now is not the time for political niceties or soft-pedalling what happened.

Part of the problem is we actually don’t know what really happened. Base on the limited information made available by the town, we are assuming – always a bad idea in journalism – that the damage was inspired by homophobia.

The bench was defaced with a “disheartening” message “interpreted by town staff to be intentionally hurtful to those the bench represents.”

Sounds distinctly like homophobia, but maybe not. We can’t be 100 per cent sure because the town refused to use or acknowledge the “H-word.”

We understand this could be seen as embarrassing to our “prettiest” little town, but please let’s be honest and frank when bad things happen. And not talking about bad things out of fear that it might inspire others to follow suit is just wrong-headed in our view.

We – and the community – don’t need to know what actual words or symbols might have been used. We all just need to know what happened (without mincing words), what is being done about it and, ideally, some strong words of condemnation.

And, yes, let’s all hope it does not happen again.