Gerretsen & Sir John A. event organizer targeted in acts of vandalism

Event organizer Milnes wakes up to slashed tires, paint on vehicle and burnt Canadian flag

Both celebrators and denouncers of Sir John A. Macdonald gathered at his statue on Jan. 11.
Supplied by Doug Kerr via WikiCommons

“I’m calmer now that I’m chain smoking,” Arthur Milnes said, puffing on a small section of a cigarette.

Mere hours earlier on Monday, Milnes — who had organized a birthday tribute to Sir John A. Macdonald — was targeted in an act of vandalism alongside Kingston MP Mark Gerretsen.

Both Gerretsen and Milnes’ cars were doused in red paint, while Milnes’ tires had been slashed and police found a burned Canadian flag underneath the vehicle.

The tribute to the first prime minister, which went ahead as planned later in the day, was protested by the Indigenous activism group Idle No More. The group burned an effigy of Macdonald in protest of celebrating the figure.

The group, which hasn’t been linked to the events, denounced the acts of vandalism in a comment to The Journal.

The group “object[s] to all forms of violence as an ethic,” Idle No More media representative Natasha Stirrett told The Journal via Facebook Messenger. The group protested the tribute with the intention of raising awareness of MacDonald’s contribution to Indigenous colonization in Canada.

Milnes — a journalist, speechwriter and historian — says the vandalism was an unpleasant early morning surprise.

He had woken up early, he said, when he noticed an unread message from Gerretsen he had received during the night.

In the message, Gerretsen told Milnes that an unknown person had dumped red paint over his car while it was parked in front of his family’s home.

As the minutes passed, Milnes began to wonder how a vandal found Gerretsen’s address, and considered his own, unlisted address. He realized he may be next.

“If they’re going for Mark on this MacDonald stuff, then they’re going for me,” he said.

Opening his front door, Milnes was confronted with a dramatic scene. Crimson paint dripped over his car, and the tires of his vehicle had been slashed.

He woke up his wife, a primary school choir director. Her choir group had intended to sing at the tribute, but had backed out due to safety concerns about the Sir John A. effigy.

“Imagine waking your spouse up, telling them that,” Milnes said. After a brief conversation, the couple — who had calmed slightly, he said — called the Kingston Police (KP).

Upon their arrival, police discovered that a Canadian flag had been burned and tossed underneath Milnes’ car.

“Think about a burning flag under a car full of gasoline on my driveway. That brought us back an hour later [emotionally] to where we started the day,” he said.

Milnes says he doesn’t believe any members of the First Nations community were involved. The Idle No More protest was peaceful and respectful, he said.

“Kingston actually showed a really mature, proper way to handle disagreement at the [Sir John A.] ceremony — to disagree, without being disagreeable, and to exercise your constitutional rights.”

He believes that the goal for Idle No More is simply to draw attention to the ways Canada has mistreated its Indigenous population — a cause he said he agrees with.

“The sad part is that now somebody — who is very colonial-like, in that they’re trying to appropriate Idle No More’s just concerns and objectives — can cause this fear,” he said.

“I don’t care if they’re caught criminally. I just hope they get some help, because if that’s how they approach discussion on complicated issues, then they need help, and they should talk to somebody.”


January 13, 2016

The last name of Canada's first prime minister is Macdonald, not MacDonald.

The Journal regrets the error.

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