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'Shock and disappointment': Scarboro United Church speaks out after weekend vandalism

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Members of a Calgary church that was defaced by vandals over the weekend are speaking out.

A Pride flag hanging from the Scarboro United Church that welcomed members of the LGBTQ2S+ community was damaged sometime between Friday night and Sunday morning.

It was burned and cut, and the message "repent" was written on it with a black marker.

“We found it on Sunday morning when we arrived for church, and obviously, the first reaction was shock and disappointment,” said Karen Garrick, the board chair of Scarboro United Church.

Calgary police are investigating the incident as a possible hate-related crime.

Garrick says there has been a lot of community support since the incident.

"We have two offers, in fact, to replace our banner free of charge from companies who print this sort of thing,” said Garrick. “So clearly, there are lots of people who are on what we consider the right side of this issue and who are standing with us in solidarity.

Garrick says the vandalism will not dissuade them from opening their doors to everyone.

“(The banner means) we are a community that welcomes everyone, regardless of their race, their gender, their wealth, their job," she said. "It just means that everyone is welcome. And we want them to be part of our community."

CPS INVESTIGATE INCIDENT AS HATE CRIME

Calgary police say the incident at the church occurred between 6:30 p.m. on March 26 and 9 a.m. on March 27.

Investigators say it's considered a hate crime, Calgary's 14th of this year.

Some members of the LGBTQ2S+ community say they are "shocked" by the vandalism.

“We hope that we've reached a certain point in our society where people don't make acts of discrimination and homophobia and transphobia, but unfortunately, that's just not where we're at right now," said Pam Rocker.

“I think it's really interesting that the word 'repent' is on there,” said Rocker. “I would encourage any folks who are trying to spread fear to queer folks that maybe they need to look at their own hearts to see what they're afraid of, to see why that that this message of freedom and acceptance means something fearful to them."

CPS says over the past three years, the number of crimes motivated by suspected hate or bias have jumped.

"This is a result of several factors; increased community and societal awareness and understanding of what is perceived to be hate and bias, lowered tolerance threshold for hate and bias, and increased reporting of incidents suspected to be motivated by hate or bias," a spokesperson wrote in an email to CTV News.

Rocker says incidents such as these can leave victims isolated.

"So to see that even when something devastating and hateful occurs, that there's a response of love and solidarity and justice on the other end, it sends a really hopeful message, that it's not always going to be this way."

So far this year, CPS says they have reviewed 105 suspected hate crime files. In 2021, officers investigated 124 confirmed hate crimes.

Anyone who may have witnessed suspicious behaviour in the area between Friday night and Sunday morning or who has information pertaining to this case is asked to contact police at 403-266-1234.

Callers who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online or by using the P3 Tips app available at Apple or the Google Play Store.

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