Edmonton Police: Defacement of Statue Not a Hate Crime

Aug. 10, 2020 – By JEREMY APPEL 

The late-2019 vandalism of an Edmonton monument honouring a Nazi commander is no longer being investigated as a hate crime, police say.

A statue of Roman Shukhevych, who commanded the Nazi-trained Ukrainian Insurgent Army that massacred between 10,000 and 15,000 Jews and 60,000-90,000 Poles, stands outside the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in Alberta’s capital, where it has been since the centre opened in 1973, with the assistance of a $75,000 provincial grant.

In December, the bust was defaced with red tape around its face and its base spray painted with “Nazi scum.” The case was referred to Edmonton police’s Hate Crime and Violent Extremism Unit (HCVEU).

The CJR has learned that earlier this year, police dismissed hate as a motivating factor in the vandalism.

“That investigation was concluded and was categorized as a mischief incident,” Edmonton Police Service spokesperson Cheryl Voordenhout told the CJR.

There are no suspects, Voordenhout said in an email, adding that “if more information comes to light, the investigation would continue.”

The HCVEU is called in when a crime is determined to have been possibly motivated by hate towards an identifiable group, or when it is reported directly to the unit, she said. 

“The involvement of HCVEU does not necessarily mean that a file is a hate crime – determining that is part of the investigation,” Voordenhout emphasized.

Abe Silverman, B’nai Brith’s Alberta public affairs manager, said he doesn’t see how the vandalism could be construed as an act motivated by hatred against Ukrainians.

“I don’t know how anybody could be charged and logically convicted of defacing a war criminal’s statue – and he is a war criminal,” Silverman said.

Silverman said he has a “dossier that is three-inches thick” with extensive documentation of Shukhevych’s crimes written by top historians in the field, in addition to work by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust authority.

“He was the head of an SS battalion and that was what the SS did – they went around killing people,” said Silverman. 

This was not the first incident this year that the vandalism of a Ukrainian Nazi collaborator statue was investigated as a possible hate crime.

As the CJR previously reported, a memorial to the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery in Oakville, Ont., was spray painted in June with “Nazi war monument,” which Halton Regional Police investigated as a potential hate crime before backtracking and apologizing. 

There is a monument to the same division at St. Michael’s Cemetery in north Edmonton. 

Silverman said B’nai Brith is working to have proper historical context affixed to the monuments, at a minimum.

“It’s something that occupies a lot of my time,” he said, adding B’nai Brith “will not allow these statues to remain in the form that they’re in right now.” 

Silverman said he has been in touch with the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex, which he said rejected his overture.

The complex didn’t respond to the CJR’s request for comment by deadline.

However, representatives told the Progress Report, which first reported that the HCVEU had opened an investigation, that documentation of Shukhevych’s responsibility for Nazi war crimes was fabricated by the Soviet Union and Communist East Germany to discredit Ukrainian nationalism.

“The statue of Roman Shukhevych is on private property. He heroically led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, seeking freedom for Ukraine from Nazi and Soviet rule and died in battle against Soviet operatives in 1950,” their statement read. “We will not succumb to false accusations.”

(Disclosure: This writer is a regular contributor to the Progress Report).

* For more on this issue, read columnist Belle Jarniewski’s take in the Commentary section.

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