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Steve Collins covers urban affairs and other issues facing the nation's capital.

Ottawa's spray-on hate must not stick

To columnist Steve Collins, this weekend's arrest in connection with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti on places of worship is perversely encouraging.

Rabbi Idan Scher stands outside the synagogue Thursday morning.

Ryan Tumilty / Metro

Rabbi Idan Scher stands outside the synagogue Thursday morning.

The arrest this weekend of a young offender in connection with vile racist and anti-Semitic graffiti on the city's places of worship is, in a way, perversely encouraging.

The youth of the suspect – and, never to be taken for granted, the correct spellings of the evil spray-painted slurs – at least suggest, despite evident failures on this front in the past, that he's still educable.

The hateful vandalism even taught me (and, uh, thanks, I guess) an unwelcome little something about white supremacist symbology. The swastikas? I get those. Subtle. Original. His mom must be very proud.

But the “1488” painted on the doors of Parkdale United Church last Thursday night? A little rusty on my conversational hate speech, I had to look that up. The Anti-Defamation League informs me the 14 refers to a 14-word neo-Nazi mission statement, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Very enlightening, though it's a riddle to me why “white children” would want or need a separate future. They're with the humans, in everybody's present and everybody's future. 

The 88, even I knew, is alphanumeric code for two H's, short form for “Heil Hitler.”  Lovely.

Parkdale. Kehillat Beth Israel Synagogue. The Ottawa Mosque. Machzikei Hadas Synagogue. Glebe Minyan Prayer Centre. Those five defilements, a typical year's worth of hate crime-level graffiti for the nation's capital in the space of a week, now appear to have all been the work of one prolific idiot.

The red paint and a certain moronic consistency of theme certainly point that way. Is it wrong to be relieved that instead of a dedicated group of haters, it appears to have been one kid being ignorantly edgy with bad words he might not truly understand?

To emphasize how alone the perpetrator was, this city reacted as I hope it always will. Our elected officials did their jobs and denounced the attacks. Regular people helped clean up the mess and on Sunday marched in the snow to declare their utter rejection of this neo-Nazi crap.

The victims, some of whom have seen this before, once again displayed more patience and compassion than I could ever have mustered.

The last time Parkdale United was hit with racist graffiti, in January, its pastor, Rev. Anthony Bailey, said he'd like to take the vandal to lunch, talk to them, try to reach an understanding.  At the very least, he added, they'd get a meal. Like the Snickers commercial, he hopes, maybe the haters just aren't themselves when they're hungry. That's some pretty high-octane benefit of the doubt.

I'm trying to follow suit. A young offender might not fully appreciate the sick, creeping fear these desecrations can create. They are threats, after all, no matter how empty, and they're freighted with real atrocities to which they've been prelude before. They're in contravention of the Criminal Code for a reason. 

Ottawa has seen hate and tribalism before, going back to the Shiners' War that pitted Irish and French against each other in the 1830s. We've steadily outgrown it, and it's time for you to grow, kid. Our city belongs to Christians, Muslims, Jews, and devout none-of-the-aboves. All colours, genders, even you.

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