Tyler Johnstone, 28, was driving on Highway 16 through Jasper National Park on Wednesday when he spotted the word “mosque” spray painted in bright yellow on the side of an outhouse in a rest area.
He drove past the vandalism, but what he saw bothered him too much to ignore it.
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“I drove past it and I drove for about five minutes and thought about it and I had to turn around and come back. It’s just disgusting,” he said in a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday morning.
“Whoever wrote that… you should be disgraced. You deserve to be at the bottom of that toilet. I’m not going to let your stupidity be seen by anybody driving by.”
He said the the implication of the outdoor bathroom being a place of worship gave him a sick feeling.
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“It’s not the graffiti,” he said. “I’m a photographer, so I’m an artist myself. There’s lots of graffiti in the city and lots of it is beautiful. But that’s not graffiti – it’s just hate. It’s easily portrayed as hate and I just didn’t want any more people to see that.”
“Hate only instills more hate.”
Johnstone works for a laundry repair company and was on his way back to Edmonton after a work call in Jasper. He was on the clock when he turned around to remove it.
“I’m sure they won’t mind that I took 20 minutes to do this.”
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He originally planned to scrape the paint away but was worried about causing further damage to the building.
“So I covered it up with some tape and then let Parks Canada know it was there,” he told Global News.
A Parks Canada spokesperson said, after talking Johnstone, highway patrol staff were sent out to inspect other rest areas and found two other washrooms had been vandalized with a similar message.
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The vandalism Johnstone spotted was near the Jasper House lookout, about halfway between the Jasper town-site and the east gates of the park. Staff said the second “mosque” graffiti was at the other end of the park, on Highway 16 between the town and the west gates.
“[It’s] not very Canadian. Not keeping with the values and traditions of Parks Canada,” media spokesperson Steve Young said.
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, all three spots had been fixed or were in the process of being addressed.
Parks Canada has hired more staff in preparation of more visitors this year because admission to all national parks is free to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. However Young said there’s no evidence more visitors will equate to more vandalism.
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Parks Canada has doubled the number of wildlife guardians for Maligne Lake Road and Highway 93, Young said. The staffers will respond to wildlife jams throughout the park and provide information to visitors about animals like elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. The idea is to ensure the safety of both visitors and wildlife.
Gates staff have been reallocated to other areas. Young said some gate staff — who would normally be collecting entrance fees, but are not this year — have also been reassigned to areas of greater use this year.
Johnstone posted his video rant when he reached Hinton, about 45 minutes east of Jasper.
By time he arrived in Edmonton, his video has garnered a big reaction.
“Just had lots of support, lots of love. Everybody just, I guess, really appreciated it.”