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“We are distressed at the desecration of Mahatma Gandhi statue at Vishnu temple in Richmond Hill,” the Indian mission in Toronto said in a Twitter statement on Thursday.
“This criminal, hateful act of vandalism has deeply hurt the sentiments of the Indian community in Canada. We are in contact with Canadian authorities to investigate this hate crime.”
India’s high commission in the country retweeted the statement and said it was “deeply anguished by this hate crime that seeks to terrorise the Indian community”.
The statue of the Indian freedom fighter is located at the Vishnu temple around Yonge Street and Garden Avenue in Toronto.
We are deeply anguished by this hate crime that seeks to terrorize the Indian community. It has led to increased concern and insecurity in the Indian community here. We have approached the Canadian government to investigate and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice swiftly. https://t.co/wDe3BUpEWi
— India in Canada (@HCI_Ottawa) July 13, 2022
A spokesperson for York regional police, constable Amy Boudreau, told CBC News that someone had defaced the 5m-tall statue with “graphic words”, including “rapist” and “Khalistan”, referring to a long-standing demand to carve out a separate country for Sikhs from India.
Ms Boudreau said police are treating the act as a “hate bias motivated incident.”
“York Regional Police does not tolerate hate crime in any form,” she said.
“Those who victimise others based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression and the like will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she added.
“We recognise that community-wide impact of hate crimes is far reaching and we do vigorously investigate all occurrences of hate crimes and any hate bias incidents.”
Shameful, shocking misdeed in #Canada.
Gandhi Ji’s statue vandalised at Vishnu Mandir in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Police is investigating it as hate crime. 1 https://t.co/ZYIwIGQ0yS pic.twitter.com/inqgynd9eI
— Kanchan Gupta 🇮🇳 (@KanchanGupta) July 14, 2022
The Indian commission in Ottawa said it has approached Canada’s federal government to probe the incident.
“We have sent a strong note to Canadian Federal Government. Consulate has taken up with Ontario Government and we are encouraging local community to file charges. This is a hate crime that glorifies terrorism,” a senior official was quoted as saying to The Hindustan Times.
“Besides a feeling of a disgust, I was disappointed,” said Dr Budhendra Doobay, the chairman of the temple.
He added that the statue has been at its current location for three decades.
“We live so peacefully in Richmond Hill here for so many years and nothing, nothing, nothing has ever happened like this. The graffiti is in such big black letters. ... We hope these things don’t happen. But what can you do?” he said.
“If we can live the way that Gandhi taught us to live, then we will not cause hurt to anyone or any community.”