SOUTH DUNDAS – As reports of the defacing of election signs of Liberal candidate Heather Megill in South Dundas began to circulate, people throughout Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry were shocked and dismayed at this occurrence.
The federal candidates in the riding of SDSG were contacted for statements regarding this act of vandalism and recently commented their thoughts on this matter to The Chesterville Record.
Conservative Party candidate Eric Duncan commented in a recent message to The Record how “It is very saddening to see the recent stories of sign vandalism happening in our community, and in different parts of the country. It is so unnecessary and not helpful to the democratic process. We can disagree on policy, but it doesn’t need to involve damaging other candidate’s property. Volunteers raise funds and spend a lot of time to install them, we need to respect and appreciate that. I reached out to the Liberal candidate to share that message and that we are unified in condemning this type of stuff. Simply put, we are Canadians, and we are better than that.”
Kelsey Catherine Schmitz, candidate for the New Democratic Party, echoed Duncan’s sentiments in a comment to The Record, mentioning how “It is disappointing that a few individuals have chosen to destroy signs like this. Each of the candidates are trying to serve our communities, and our volunteers are working hard to help us do so. I think this shows a disrespect of not only Heather and her commitment to our communities, but to our volunteers as well.” She further explained that members of “the NDP team found some of the vandalized signs and with Heather’s OK, took some of them down,” continuing “one of my volunteers endured gross language being shouted at her while doing this task.” She concluded her comment by saying “these actions discourage people from getting involved in public service, for worry about the backlash or unkindness that can happen. It also makes volunteers feel unsafe, which is unacceptable. I am proud that we, as candidates are leading by example, supporting each other, and quickly connected with each other over this incident. We want a chance to fairly discuss issues and ways to help our region, while remaining respectful and collegiate.”
SDSG Green Party candidate Raheem Aman provided an email statement to The Record in which he explained his understanding of public outrage following the recent news on Trudeau; however, he stressed that defacement of private property is not an appropriate response, “as a black man and candidate in the election, there is a reason I have no respect for PM Justin Trudeau. It’s not just the constant integrity issues in general, as we saw with JWR [Jody Wilson-Raybould] and others in the SNC-Lavalin case, but particularly with this issue of blackface and brownface. It’s garbage; spare me the political correctness.” The statement continued, “should they be marking every Liberals’ lawn sign with black or brown marker, no. Does the public have a right to be mad at Liberals after this? 100 per cent. Defacing private property is not the way. You vote, you speak and you boycott. As I hope you have all learned from our neighbours to the south, you ought never to render democracy to a mere popularity contest. Integrity, and not charm, must always be at the forefront of one’s litmus test in determining a good leader. This is not about how much money someone has; it is about moral uprightness. I only pray that Canadians don’t have amnesia on Oct. 21.”
The People’s Party candidate for SDSG, Sabile Trimm, was reached for a statement; she declined to provide a comment.
Liberal candidate Heather Megill, whose signs were damaged, made the following statement regarding the incident in an email to The Chesterville Record:
“I learned of our signs in South Dundas being damaged with black paint from a call, from a local reporter from South Dundas. I also had emails from two residents of Morrisburg to alert me to the situation. I went out to Morrisburg to remove the signs. The sign painting was a very deliberate act, in that the person who spray painted the signs used card board cutouts of my eyes and my mouth to shield the black spray paint. I removed the spray painted signs and replaced them with signs with text only on them.”
Megill’s statement continued, “as I was returning to my vehicle I was stopped by a former teaching colleague who told me how sorry she was and how ashamed she was that this was happening in South Dundas. She said ‘this is not us.’ I agreed with her, it is not South Dundas. I taught at both Morrisburg Public School and at St. Mary’s in Morrisburg and at Dixons Corners further to the north. I know that this incident was done by one person and does not reflect the views of the good people of Dundas county.”
“I however was very unhappy that it was an act that perpetuated a racist attitude, as it made fun of the incident reported in the press earlier in the week. Some of my dear friends from racial minorities were deeply wounded that this would happen in our very own riding, and one of my dear fiends was quite triggered because they have often been the recipient of so much racism in their life,” Megill continued.
Megill’s statement continued, “as a teacher I have, from time to time, had to deal with children making racist or sexist comments in my classroom. I have always dealt with it in a kind and supportive manner by using it as a teachable moment. I have spoken privately with the students involved and then in the whole class setting so we could discuss how our words and actions can serve to wound our friends and classmates. After these discussions as a group, I often found that children became good friends and my whole class took better care of each other.”
“The situation with the Prime Minister having worn ‘blackface and brownface’ became a teachable moment for the whole country. I have no doubt that every school in our country had a class discussion about the situation. I know Prime Minister Trudeau was very ashamed and saddened that he did these acts in his youth and that it has now caused so much pain to so many people. We all have to think before we say and do things that can be construed in a way to hurt other people. What might seem funny can be crushingly hurtful to another person. Racism has no place in our society,” the statement read.
“I also wanted to note that on the Thursday, a day prior to the black spray paint incident, I had been contacted by NDP campaign workers and by Kelsey Schmitz, the NDP candidate herself, by phone that some of our other Liberal signs had been spray painted with red and green paint. They asked if they could remove them. I agreed and thanked them for their reaching out to us and removing the damaged signs. I was also contacted by Eric Duncan and he expressed his dismay with the damage to our signs. We as candidates are all concerned with the portrayal of our democratic process. Open and fair elections are important to all candidates and Canadians. Damaging election signs is a criminal offence,” the statement concluded.
In a reply to an email query from The Record, a media spokesman with Elections Canada commented: “Vandalism is prohibited under the Canada Elections Act article 325 (1)”, which states: “No person shall prevent or impair the transmission to the public of an election advertising message, without the consent of a person with authority to authorize its transmission.”
Carolyn Thompson Goddard, grew up in Chesterville and attended North Dundas District High School. After completing her BA in Political Science at Carleton University she has worked as a medical secretary and library technician. In 2020 she graduated from Algonquin College with a diploma in Journalism and has been a reporter and column writer for The Chesterville Record for over 10 years.