Nanaimo RCMP are looking for the vandal or vandals who spray-painted anti-immigrant slurs on advertisements for Chinese real estate agents.
The racist graffiti, painted early Sunday, comes on the heels of racially charged pamphlets that blamed wealthy foreign investors for inflating real estate prices, handed out at the end of May.
Eight bus-stop bench ads were defaced, one with a swastika, others with ethnic slurs or offensive messages.
The benches are in the residential area around Departure Bay, between upscale Stephenson Point Road and Malaspina Crescent.
Mounties are treating the incident as a case of mischief. “We don’t think it meets the definition of a hate crime, but having said that, it’s still very disturbing and we’re taking it very seriously,” said Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien. While police have not established whether the graffiti is linked to the flyers, O’Brien said it’s likely.
The flyers, published by a group calling itself “Putting Canada First,” were put in residents’ mailboxes and featured images of ads by Chinese real estate agents to support the group’s claim that foreign buyers are influencing the housing market. The flyers also urged people not to sell to Chinese buyers.
Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay said the racist graffiti is “disgusting” and the message in the pamphlets is untrue. “They’re spreading lies and they’re trying to create fear,” McKay said. “I believe this is a small number of lunatics.
“We have to stop these people. This does not reflect our community,” he said.
McKay said he has talked to Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Mark Fisher and staff at Nanaimo’s Immigrant Welcome Centre to try to come up with a plan for the city’s next steps.
The City of Nanaimo embraces cultural diversity with more than 70 languages spoken by the 88,000 residents, McKay said.
Nanaimo RCMP are asking anyone with information about the case to call them at 250-754-2345 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).