The North Bay Police Service is investigating a series of acts of vandalism to private properties along Main Street in North Bay.
The vulgar messages, likely scribbled with a permanent marker earlier this week, are in plain view along both Main Street East and West. Most include the phrase "F*ck passports," seemingly in reference to the provincially mandated proof of vaccination required to enter some non-essential settings.
"It's unfortunate that individuals need to take their frustrations regarding government guidelines out on our buildings and signs — and business owners," says Amber Livingstone, executive director of Downtown North Bay, which represents businesses in the core of the city.
"For some reason, some in the community are forgetting that the businesses downtown are run by our neighbours," Livingstone continues. "These are real people behind the doors. So, when there are negative comments online, it's not really supportive of these people who are doing their best to keep their livelihoods going.
"And, then to have someone take a marker and go downtown and do this. You're not helping at all. Do you think you got some kind of message across? It did not happen. All it did was hurt businesses that are trying to recover."
Business owners, many short-staffed and merely following government mandates in a bid to keep businesses afloat, are now left to clean up after the actions of someone who is quite possibly equally frustrated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated social issues.
The police investigation into the incident includes gathering footage from security cameras in the area, confirms David Woolley, corporate communications officer for NBPS.
"We're all tired of the pandemic, in different ways, we're all just trying to get by," Livingstone adds. But, that does not excuse the "disrespectful" vandalism over decisions made outside of the control of local businesses.
"Businesses are facing staffing issues, supply shortages, to add to that weight because you're mad at a government mandate, is not OK," she says. "Businesses owners are frustrated. We have businesses that had new facades put up and someone defaced them, only months later. You're only hurting your community's members."
Both the Multicultural Centre and The Abbey had recent exterior work vandalized in the spree. The Bank of Montreal and the municipal heritage plaque recognizing the Cormack Block, among others, were also affected.
"We've hit a point during this pandemic that many people want to support local businesses and this sort of negativity is not helpful at all," Livingstone sums up. "Our downtown gets featured in movies, well now we've got this horrible vandalism with awful messaging. Nobody wants to see this."