The street sign bears the name of Alex Decoteau but the concrete monument in the background is missing the plaque which police say was stolen and destroyed. (Martin Weaver/CBC) The great niece of Alex Decoteau can’t understand why anyone would want to steal and destroy a commemorative plaque honouring his contribution and sacrifice as a soldier.
"It doesn’t speak well of people who would do something like that," said Izola Mottershead, 86, upon hearing Decoteau’s plaque was one of about 17 stolen from the north Edmonton neighbourhood of Griesbach.
Decoteau, who was killed in the First World War, has a street named in his honour in the community, a former garrison.
"His story is one that goes on and on and on, he’s very memorable," Mottershead said.
"It’s a pitiful thing to do. I’m very disappointed and the families of all those men will be very disappointed too," she said. Izola Mottershead said it’s a shame people in Griesbach can no longer learn about her great-uncle by reading the plaque which disappeared in the past few days. (CBC) As the first ever Indigenous police officer in Canada, Alex Decoteau is well known across the country.
After joining the military he died at the age of 29 fighting in Passchendaele in 1917.
An Edmonton park in his name honours his long list of achievements which include competing in the Olympics as a long distance runner.
The theft will upset many in the Indigenous community, said Christine Frederick from Alberta Aboriginal Arts. Alex Decoteau is shown here in a photo from 1912 when he competed in the Olympics in Sweden. (CBC) "I think it’s a real tragedy that somebody has vandalized one of the few tributes that is here in the city of Edmonton to an aboriginal achiever," Fredericks said.
Griesbach community league president Brad Tilley said his children learned about Decoteau’s legacy from reading the commemorative plaque.
Edmonton police recovered the stolen plaques Wednesday when a scrap metal dealer contacted them after seeing news reports about the theft.
Police would not say how much money changed hands for the metal as the amount is part of the investigation, but with no precious metals involved, the plaques would not have been worth much. Police said the stolen plaques are badly damaged and estimate replacing them will cost $70,000. (Edmonton Police ) Det. Eric Wilde said in his 26 years as a police officer he could not remember any crime as disrespectful.
"There is no apology anyone can offer to the family or the community for what has been done," Wilde said.
Police are also exploring the possibility of laying a charge around the possible damage of war or military memorials.
The community is looking at raising money to replace the destroyed plaques, Tilley said.
Izola Mottershead said she is pleased to hear that.
"If they weren’t going to raise the money, I would try to for the Alex Decoteau one."
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