Proposed law targets vandals of first responder memorials

Sen. Leo Housakos and Edmonton MP want to increase deterrence

Conservative Senator Leo Housakos has introduced a new bill that would increase penalties significantly for anyone convicted of vandalizing a monument dedicated to first responders.

The bill is being championed in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Michael Cooper (St. Albert-Edmonton).

The proposed new law seeks to amend section 430 of the Criminal Code so that anyone convicted of vandalizing a first responder memorial would receive the same penalty as individuals convicted of vandalizing war memorials.

Vandalism incidents

The past year has seen an increase in vandalism to first responder monuments, including a monument dedicated to fallen firefighters and police officers in Calgary. In September, the statue of the late Edmonton Police Constable Ezio Faraone was vandalized.

Faraone was murdered in the line of duty in June 1990 as he courageously pursued two bank robbers. Adding penalties, as proposed in the new bill, “would increase deterrence and send a strong message that such acts of mischief will not be tolerated,” Housakos and Cooper said in a statement.

‘A slap,’ says Housakos

“The men and women of emergency services are very close to my heart after I sponsored a bill a few years ago calling for a national framework for PTSD amongst first responders,” said Housakos.

“They sacrifice their own physical, mental and emotional well being in order to protect ours. And sometimes, they make the ultimate sacrifice and their loved ones are left to pick up the pieces. When these monuments are desecrated, it not only dishonours the heroes among us, it is a slap in the face to the families left behind.”

Seeking accountability

“First responders put their lives on the line to serve and protect our communities,” said Cooper. “Being a first responder takes courage and selflessness.

“To vandalize monuments dedicated to men and women who have served their communities on the front line is reprehensible and must not be tolerated,” he continued. “This legislation will ensure that perpetrators of such vile acts are held accountable under the law and appropriately punished.”

According to news reports, there has been a notable increase in vandalism to monuments dedicated to first responders over the past year in both Canada and the U.S.

Vandalism incidents

In August, Edmonton police launched an investigation after the monument paying tribute to Cst. Faraone was defaced with graffiti. According to those reports, black and white painted graffiti included vulgar messages, with one tag reading “F–k cops.”

‘It is a slap in the face to the families left behind,’ Housakos says regarding the impact of vandalism on memorials to first responders

In the U.S. meanwhile, vandals last July cut down a flagpole which was the centrepiece of a memorial honoring five firefighters from the Washingtonville NY area who died in the World Trade Center collapse. As well, there have been other incidents in the U.S. in which vandals defaced monuments commemorating 9/11 first responders.

Emulating Bill C-217

The proposed Canadian legislation follows in the footsteps of Bill C-217 (An Act to Amend the Criminal Code – mischief relating to war memorials), passed by the House of Commons in 2014. Bill C-217 amended section 430 of the Criminal Code by adding significant penalties for individuals convicted of mischief be defacing war memorials. The new legislation would provide equivalent penalties for individuals convicted of mischief by defacing first responder memorials.