Ottawa
3 min

Help us catch box vandal

Someone doesn't like Ottawa's gays and lesbians

Someone’s attacking you again. Not directly. But through us at Capital Xtra. Through our boxes, to be specific.

You’ll recall that in 2005 someone was spraying hate slogans on our boxes and physically damaging them inside. Ottawa’s Hate Crimes Unit responded. Capital Xtra got photos of the culprit and passed them on to police.

The vandal, Thomas M Strain turned out to be an anguished, confused man whose deeply religious parents had done a number on him. When Capital Xtra boxes started showing up in his neighbourhood and same-sex marriage was legalized, he lost it. By damaging our boxes, he was sending a message to each member of the gay community that we were getting too big for our breeches.

Instead, he was put on trial. The gay community was “somewhat traumatized” by the series of actions, crown attorney Riad Tallim told the court.

The judge acknowledged that the vandalism was a hate crime and sentenced Strain to three months of house arrest — an important step forward in sentencing history. During Strain’s spree, Capital Xtra spent over $10,000 in box up-keep — that’s big money for our not-for-profit paper.

There’s been relative calm since — until now. At the end of summer, we got a call from a reader telling us a middle-aged man on a bicycle was riding up to our boxes and clearing out all the contents, and stuffing them under another newspaper’s offerings.

Then our downtown boxes started being hit. Someone was taking the paper out of the front window clip and putting it, upside down, back on the pile. To the passer-by, it looked like there were no papers remaining.

After we wrote a November report about how posters about gay events were being singled out for city harassment, suddenly ripped-down posters were being balled up and put in our boxes.

And then, over the Christmas holidays, perhaps coincidentally right after the same-sex marriage issue was finally settled in Parliament, a most strange thing happened. Every paper in some 30 boxes in our downtown core was removed sometime between Dec 23 and 28. Imagine: someone so dedicated to making a point to our community that they invested the time to travel our entire downtown core and vacuum up every single paper.

Someone really doesn’t like us — you and me.

Of course, we at Capital Xtra aren’t going to roll over and show our bellies on this one. We’re checking our high-volume boxes daily. Our distributor is constantly re-stocking. And we’ve got the Hate Crimes Unit on our side — your side.

So, here’s where you come in.

We want to nab this person or persons, charge them, and give them publicity that will leave even their priest blushing. Sounds good, eh? You can help by keeping an eye out for people tampering with our boxes. If you see something actually happening, please call the general police number and tell them you’re watching a crime in progress and that it’s a crime that the Hate Crimes Unit has asked the public to report so that a squad car can be sent. That number is 613-236-1212. Maybe you can even get a photo with your cell phone camera.

If you know something about the perpetrators of this crime, please call Det Will Hinterberger at 613-236-1222 x 2467 (hinterbergerw@ottawapolice.ca). And call me too, please, at 613-237-7133 xt 28.

And if you’re the perpetrator of these acts, please understand a couple of points. One is that you’re committing an actual crime, because the law entitles Capital Xtra to get full enjoyment from our property; you’re expected to take one copy only for your personal pleasure and you’re not permitted to interfere with our right to communicate to other readers by taking display copies out of the window.

And if you don’t like queers, if you’re angry about same-sex marriage or any other issue, if you have an objection to the gay paper, then the proper response is to write a letter or to ask for a column space. It’s not okay to impose your beliefs on others by interfering with their right to read the news source they choose. If you don’t like us, don’t pick us up; just walk by. So, I’ll extend you a challenge: write a letter or a guest column and I’ll publish it. We’re not afraid of your opinion because we have the courage of our convictions. We expect the same of you. Don’t be a coward: write us. And leave the readers to their choice of news source. Stop hassling the boxes.

Or try explaining it to the courts.