The man who urinated on the Komagata Maru memorial last month is mentally ill and has apologized for his act, Vancouver police said on Thursday.
The Vancouver police located the suspect on Wednesday and he agreed to apologize for his actions, chief constable Jim Chu said in a statement. The suspect’s signed apology read: I am sorry for what I did that day at the monument. I didn’t want to hurt anyone.
Police believe that the suspect is an illicit drug user, suffers a serious mental disorder and ‘needs the health system, not the justice system’, Chu said.
“The Vancouver police have always treated this abhorrent act on the Komagata Maru monument as a serious matter. We know the importance of this monument to the community. I was personally honoured to speak at its unveiling,” Chu said.The Komagata Maru memorial is dedicated to the 376 Indian passengers aboard a Japanese ship of the same name, who were turned away from Canada in May 1914 under its discriminatory laws. The ship was anchored in Vancouver for over two months and forced out of Vancouver and back to India on July 23, 1914.
The memorial was created by the Vancouver Park Board in partnership with the Khalsa Diwan Society to embrace multiculturalism and remind people about the devastating impact of racial intolerance.
When the matter of urinating on the memorial was reported to the police, a hate crime investigator was assigned to the case, Chu said.
Police identified the suspect and interviewed the witness in the case with the help of the Khalsa Diwan Society president.
“Based on the interview results, we confirmed that our only option in the justice system was a bylaw ticket for urinating in public,” Chu said.
Chu said it was not in anyone’s interest to serve this suspect a bylaw ticket and when explained, several South Asian community leaders supported this decision.
The police had earlier this week said that while urinating in a public place can be a criminal offence in Canada under certain circumstances, that wasn’t the case here. They also decided not to press charges against the suspect.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said he supports the department’s decision. “The desecration and vandalism of the Komagata Maru monument was a disgusting and disgraceful act, but clearly performed by someone who had no idea what he was doing,” Robertson said.
Sohan Deol, president of the Khalsa Diwan Society, said the local Sikh community was initially very upset about the incident. But they accept the man’s apology and support police.
“Whatever he did, he apologized for,” Deol said. “I think the community … we should accept because of the condition of that person.”
Chu said the man, who lives in Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown Eastside, will be referred to an outreach team that can help him with his mental illness.