Employees at three different Buddhist places of worship in the Canadian city of Montreal have confirmed that statues on their respective sites were vandalized in recent weeks. While police have yet to establish a motive and have not disclosed any specifics about the investigations, they have confirmed that the wave of vandalism against the Asian community symbols are being treated as potential hate crimes. Several Buddhist temples in the city have seen walls and statues disfigured, spray painted, or overturned.
The Chua Quan Am Buddhist temple, located on de Courta Avenue in the district of Côtes-des-Neiges, has been attacked on two separate occasions. Surveillance footage shows an individual vandalizing statues with a sledgehammer in the early hours of 2 February. The temple was attacked again three weeks later, in the early hours of 22 February.
Louis Le, an army reservist and volunteer at the temple, helped to rebuild some of the monuments. He lamented over the extent of the damages incurred, adding that the materials can cost thousands of dollars to import. “Seeing my work being destroyed by a faceless coward enrages me to no end,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
The 24-year-old believes that the attacks are targeting Asian sites because of misinformation that has spread following the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. In a Facebook post that went viral, Le denounced the fact that people from the Asian community were being unfairly blamed for the new global health crisis.
“The Asian community in Montreal is currently being targeted with hate crimes as we speak,” he wrote. “We can’t just let ’em get away with it.” (CBC News)
Chua Quan Am’s custodian, Anh Kiet le Van, initially thought that the attack was an isolated incident. The temple is undergoing repairs, and he assumed that an angry neighbor had lashed out because of the noise from the construction work. However, with word spreading about other Buddhist places of worship being vandalized across Montreal, Kiet agreed that these incidents were likely related.
According to local merchants, the lion statues at the entrance to the city’s Chinatown were desecrated with spray paint during the last week of February.
“When I saw it there was a cross, a green cross,” Eric Ku, owner of Dobe & Andy restaurant told Global News. “Something [was] written on the side of the lion’s face but I couldn’t make out what it was.” (Global News)
Authorities at the Thuyen Ton Buddhist Association in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie have also reported that many of their statues were vandalized. And less than two kilometers away, on Chambord Street, statues at the entrance to the Huyen Khong Buddhist Socio-Cultural Center were also defaced.
Buddhist nun Tran Dinh of the Thuyen Ton Buddhist Association said she could not understand why the statues were being targeted.
“I’m very sad,” she said. “A little angry.” (CBC News)
Le added that he was worried that these acts of violence against Asian symbols may start being leveled against people. With the temples becoming especially busy over the weekends and attracting a large Asian community, Kiet and Le both expressed hope that the police were taking the investigation seriously.
Buddhists sites and temples are vandalized in Montreal (Global News)
Montreal police investigating acts of vandalism, violence targeting Asian community symbols (Radio Canada International)
Montreal police suspect hate-crimes after vandals hit Buddhist temples, Chinatown (CBC News)
Des pagodes vandalisées à Montréal (Radio Canada)