Federal Liberal candidate and Colwood Coun. Doug Kobayashi was devastated when two of his campaign signs were defaced in recent days with images of swastikas.
He was raised to deflect racism, to not talk back and to move forward. But in this case, “I had to say something because I was disgusted by this. It was such an egregious act.”
“I am hoping the other politicians would call this out.”
The signs were vandalized in the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke riding.
Kobayashi looks at the incidents in the context of his own family history.
His father, who was of Japanese ancestry, had been interned in a camp during the Second World War. The children were raised to assimilate with Canadian culture and serve their country.
His father joined the Royal Canadian Navy and fought in the Korean War.
Raised in Greater Victoria, Kobayashi and his siblings were often the only non-Caucasian in a classroom. Racial comments were a daily occurrence back then.
Kobayashi and his two brothers also joined the armed forces. Kobayashi, who attended Royal Roads Military College, was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force
He then served as an aeronautical engineer in executive positions in the private sector in Canada and the U.S.
Kobayashi remembers his parents’ belief in the importance of giving back to the community.
These days he spends about 40 hours a week volunteering in the capital region. In addition to being a first-time Colwood council member, he is a trustee on the board of the Greater Victoria Public Library, a past president of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, volunteers with the B.C. Aviation Museum on the Saanich Peninsula, was a member of Royal Roads University’s board of governors, and was president of the West Shore Rebels Football Club.
After the pandemic was announced, he was accosted while walking through Centennial Square on his way to a Capital Regional District board meeting. Someone asked him what he was doing here and accused him of bringing COVID-19 to Canada.
“I talked to a lot of people in the Asian community and they’re faced with this all the time,” he said.
Kobayashi’s campaign sign crew did not work Sunday but he expects they will take down the defaced signs on Monday. It appears that one in Sooke was vandalized on Thursday evening and the other in Colwood was vandalized on Saturday night.
When he learned that the swastika symbol had been put on his signs, “it just tore me apart.”
He even questioned himself, wondering, “Have I done the right things in my life?”
Kobayashi wonders if the vandalism was directed against him personally or was a message to the party?
Even though Kobayashi said it is only a small minority of people who do these things, “it was very devastating.”
Vandalism of signs is something candidates and parties face virtually every election, with spray paint the medium of choice.
Hateful and racist words and images are found on vandalized signs. Some signs are simply knocked down while others are stolen.
For example, dozens of election signs of four Liberal candidates in Ontario and Quebec have been vandalized recently with anti-Semitic graffiti. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had racist remarks shouted at him. A man yelled at Singh, who was born and raised in Ontario, to “go back home.”
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, who represents Mount Royal in Quebec, said 20 election posters had swastikas drawn on them.
Incidents of sign vandalism cropped up on Vancouver Island during the 2019 federal election when several parties were targeted.