Skip to content

Cold Lake man charged in mosque vandalism

A 19-year-old Cold Lake man is in custody in connection with the latest vandalism of the Cold Lake mosque.
Nineteen-year-old William Paul Cross of Cold Lake has been charged with vandalism to the Cold Lake mosque.
Nineteen-year-old William Paul Cross of Cold Lake has been charged with vandalism to the Cold Lake mosque.

A 19-year-old Cold Lake man is in custody in connection with the latest vandalism of the Cold Lake mosque.

William Paul Cross was arrested by Cold Lake RCMP last week, charging him with the vandalism of the mosque, the CIBC and damaging Christmas decorations put up by the City of Cold Lake in the downtown. The arrest was made after an investigator combed through hours of surveillance footage from cameras at downtown businesses.

“The investigator did an exceptional job on this one and spent lots of hours reviewing video surveillance from all (businesses) throughout the downtown and eventually we were able to ID him through the video surveillance,” said Cold Lake RCMP S/Sgt. Jeremie Landry.

Politicians across the region have denounced the most recent act of vandalism targeting the Cold Lake mosque.

Sometime between the night Nov. 27 and the morning of Nov. 28, which is when the words “Go Home” were scrawled in orange marker on the front door of the mosque and “Catch Me If You Can” was written on an inside wall in the ATM vestibule.

Mosque caretaker Mahmoud El-Kadri was notified that the mosque's door had been vandalized the morning following the incident over the phone. The writing was faint and took members of the mosque a few seconds to scrub off.

“The writing was so faint that when we went to our Fajr, the morning prayer, we did not notice it because it was dark but we got a call around 10 o'clock in the morning saying there was this message and when I went to the mosque the RCMP was there already.”

Cold Lake has been grappling with petty vandalism recently, and a bylaw officer has been patrolling the downtown core until 2 a.m. to crack down on these types of incidents.

“The Muslim community and the members of the mosque are just great people and…the way they handled the first incident was so professional,” said Mayor Craig Copeland, talking about the first time the mosque was vandalized last year.

“They are Cold Lakers and they've been here for a long, long time and they're a part of the fabric of our community and I just think everybody's disgusted by the vandalism they've had to endure.”

He added, “I think people are taking advantage of the fact that the mosque got vandalized last year but whether it's the same people is hard to say so whether or not its related I'll let the police figure it out.”

Last year, members of the community came out to help scrub down the mosque's walls after the same message was written much more prominently across the front of the building and the windows were smashed in. People came to help out again last week, leaving cards and cupcakes for congregants at the mosque.

“We are sorry for the ignorance of some who hurt your mosque and are trying to destroy us all,” some residents wrote in the card. “We think you are a wonderful addition to our country, our province, our neighbourhood. You are us.”

Fort McMurray – Cold Lake MP David Yurdiga was quick to denounce the latest act of vandalism in a statement issued the day following the incident.

“This attempt to intimidate Muslims in our community will not be tolerated. The Cold Lake community showed that when they responded to the last instance of hate with an outpouring of support for the Muslim community in Cold Lake,” Yurdiga wrote.

“The perpetrators of this crime don't seem to understand that the Muslims in our community are just as at home as everyone else. In our region is the second oldest mosque in Alberta located in Lac La Biche. The Islamic community has been an integral part in building our region. Muslims are our neighbors, friends, and local volunteers. I think Mayor Copeland was right last year when he said that perhaps the vandal should reevaluate whether they belong in Cold Lake.”

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, Cold Lake Islamic Society president Ajaz Quraishi denounced the attacks and urged people to remain calm during a spike in Islamophobic incidents across Canada.

“At least they didn't burn the mosque,” Quraishi said in reference to a Peterborough, ON mosque that was damaged in an act of arson following the Paris attack.

“There is no use to even mention it because…people that want to do it they will do it, the main thing is they have to get caught.”

El-Kadri echoed Quraishi's sentiments, believing the individual responsible was just looking for the spotlight.

“For us as citizens we can't cross or jump over the RCMP's job, that's their job and I'm very sure whatever they come with we will be very happy because they will do whatever is safe for the people that live here.”

Cross has been charged with two counts of mischief under $5,000 and one count of mischief to a religious property. He has since been released and will appear in Cold Lake Provincial Court on Dec. 9 at 10 a.m.