By Jenn Watt
Sept. 27 2016
Christopher O’Mara is at a loss about how to address a second act of hateful vandalism in three months at his Haliburton business.
On Wednesday Sept. 28 the owner of Prettypaws Pet Boutique and Spa arrived to work to find “fag” spray painted on the door of his Highland Street shop.
He was in the process of scrubbing it off when his first customers came in for their appointments.
“My first client was walking through my door as I was sitting on my floor scrubbing ‘fag’ off my door” he said.
In June O’Mara had a similar incident with “fag” spray painted on the windows of the shop. The community rallied around him with supportive visits phone calls Facebook posts and a downtown campaign to put safe space stickers in shop windows.
“It was so overwhelming and positive” O’Mara said. “It was really amazing.”
But despite the public displays of solidarity it’s happened again.
‘The second time doesn’t feel like some kid with a can of spray paint. The second time it really feels like somebody’s trying to make a point” he said.
And it’s making him uneasy both in his business and personally. He said it makes him want to change his behaviour to avoid an encounter with people who are so hateful that they would vandalize his business.
“When you have to start changing your daily activities to say I’m not going to do this at this time or I’m not going to be at my salon late at night it really affects your lifestyle” he said.
If the problem persists O’Mara isn’t sure he wants to stay in Haliburton.
“I’m not willing to have it happen again. I’m not willing to accept that this is going to be what I arrive to at my salon. If that’s what I’m going to show up to at my salon I’m going to lock the door and walk away.”
O’Mara opened Prettypaws about three years ago. He said before June he had never had anyone targeting his business. However on Wednesday he said he does regularly endure anti-gay taunts.
“I have had to grow a really thick skin. But it’s hard to constantly wear that thick skin” he said.
When his shop was targeted in June he called for a community conversation about homophobia which did happen.
“We’ve had a really good community conversation after that happened” he said. “I really thought we had made a positive difference and then it happened again.”
However he said more clearly needs to be done on the education front. He said more conversations in the high schools would help and that people should be encouraged to say something if they hear about people committing hate crimes.
“We have a big queer community in our school. What does this say to our 16-year-olds who are coming out?” he asked.
O’Mara said he doesn’t have the answers about how to stop these acts from happening. On Wednesday he was having a security camera system installed on the outside of the shop but that’s a deterrent not a solution.
“I would love to hear what other people have to say about how we’re going to stop this from happening again” he said.