Vandals hit Old Montreal hard

Pop Goes The News – With so many businesses closed due to the pandemic and so few people out and about, historic Old Montreal has been targeted in recent weeks by vandals armed with spray paint.

Cowardly criminals are tagging heritage buildings and monuments throughout one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations. Property owners, dealing with huge losses due to the lockdown, are now having to deal with costly removal of spray paint.

Vandals have left their mark on the north facade of the New York Life Insurance Building, built in the late 1880s, at Place D’Armes and on the west facade of the 90-year-old Aldred Building next door (the rear wall of the Aldred Building was tagged weeks earlier). Bank of Montreal recently had to remove graffiti on the east side of its building.

On the Aldred Building, completed in 1931.

Also facing historic Place D’Armes is vandalism on the corner slab of the Duluth Building, constructed in 1912.

Criminals have spray-painted several buildings along Saint-Francois-Xavier street south of Notre-Dame Street – including the empty Fairyland Building (built in 1869) and the windows of an abandoned retail space across the street.

The facade of the historic building that housed the Belgard Barber Shop until it was gutted in a fire in early November was also vandalized.

A west-facing wall of the Pointe-à-Callière Museum was recently hit by spray-paint, as was a stone fixture at the eastern entrance to the Place de la Grande-Paix-de-Montréal.

On a wall of the Pointe-à-Callière Museum

Numerous buildings along Notre-Dame Street East between Place D’Armes and McGill were hit by vandals in recent weeks, as was one on Saint-Sulpice. Even a holiday installation in Place D’Armes was targeted.

Montreal is infamous as the graffiti capital of Canada. Entire neighbourhoods throughout the island as well as the city’s Sainte-Catherine shopping district are covered in spray-paint vandalism. Almost the entirety of the federally-maintained Lachine Canal is completely defaced, as is the newly-completed Turcot Interchange.

Police say there is nothing they can do unless vandals are caught in the act – and most operate under the cover of night. According to the City of Montreal, graffiti on public property can be reported online but will only be removed between April 1 and Nov. 30.

Most citizens of Montreal simply chalk up the vandalism to the reality of living in a city with so much poverty and political strife. Symbols of the federal government are commonly targeted. (For example, vandals boasted online this summer about successful tagging every Canada Post mailbox on the island.)

Many defend it as street art or a form of freedom of expression.

On Maison Cuvillier-Ostell, built in 1836

Some owners are quick to remove graffiti from their buildings. When the eastern stone wall of the Maison Cuvillier-Ostell, built in 1836, was tagged with “BLM” graffiti in July, it was blasted off within days. Last month, McDonald’s Canada was quick to wash spray paint off the windows of its Old Montreal location, which is closed until spring.

But, most of the graffiti will remain.

Old Montreal was largely safe from tagging for many years due to its constant flow of visitors. Since the pandemic hit, many businesses have closed temporarily or permanently and foot traffic has all but disappeared, especially late at night. Although police have stepped up patrols, vandals feel more secure – and the historic buildings of Old Montreal are their new canvas.

BELOW: Scroll through images of some of the recent vandalism in Old Montreal