200-year-old tipped and broken tombstones from St. Boniface Cemetery
Photo Credit: James Turner/ CBC
Halloween hijinks have left a Winnipeg cemetery with a $5,000 repair bill, as well as some hard feelings in the parish and community.
St. Boniface Cemetery, located in Winnipeg's French-speaking district, was hit on Halloween 2009 by unknown pranksters. who left dozens of tipped, broken and uprooted tombstones.
The graveyard is home to the tomb of Louis Riel (the founding father of Manitoba), as well as other graves that date back to the early 1800s. Although the vandals left Riel’s monument alone, extensive damage was done around the rest of the graveyard.
The parish did try to prevent this very kind of sinful sabotage by hiring extra security for the night. “It’s not their fault,” said Rev. Marcel Damphousse of the Archdiocese of Saint Boniface. “They were only hired to patrol at intervals. We need a different strategy for next year.”
Damphousse said that what used to be a religious holiday marking the eve of the All Saints feast on November 1 has changed into “something more Celtic or pagan.”
As for the tombstone tippers, Damphousse said, “I can’t understand what would motivate anyone to be so insensitive.”
Police reported no more vandalism than usual this year. One officer said, “I haven’t filed any vandalism reports this year, in fact.”
“Egg throwing, toilet papering… maybe the occasional arson…that’s standard Halloween tradition,” said Werner Schwager, 56, a security guard from a company not involved with the St. Boniface incident. “There’s always been the bad eggs, but it does seem there’s more of them now.”
Damphousse said the church’s insurance does not cover vandalism, so the archdiocese or individual families will have to cover the costs. “We’ve already propped up some of the stones. There are many broken ones, though, and we have to get those fixed.”
Damphousse said he felt that people have become more disrespectful in the last 20 years. “Destroying 200-year-old gravestones is going pretty low in the ranks of pranks.”
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