Crossing borders: Religious symbols in downtown Sydney lead to threats, accusations

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SYDNEY, NS – A local’s religious mission appears to have escalated into alleged threats and accusations against the mayor, a local 2SLGBTQ+ advocate and the owner of a popular coffee shop.

On Good Friday, Glen Muise began spray-painting crosses on dozens of utility poles and several buildings in downtown Sydney.

During an interview outside his home this week, Muise told the Cape Breton Post he decided to paint the crosses “to make people think of Jesus Christ,” he said, adding, “I want people to look to that.” Cross-check and think about their parenting and if they’ve done something they regret, maybe there’s something they can do about it, that’s the point.”

crosses covered

However, many of these crosses have since been covered with pride symbols and messages after Muise posted YouTube videos in which he openly admits to painting the crosses while making comments that many people felt were homophobic.

In a YouTube video, Muise says Doctor Luke’s, an independent coffee shop on the corner of Bentinck Street and Prince Street, and the neighboring Highland Arts Theater and Ally Center form a “circle of fire” in downtown Sydney. He then shows a cross he drew on Doctor Luke’s side.

The cross has since been covered with a piece of paper repeating the phrase “Love is love – it sees no gender,” as well as rainbow-colored hearts and the hashtag #pride.

Doctor Luke’s owner James Walsh said he has no doubt Muise is targeting the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Glen Muise stands in front of a shrine to the Virgin Mary in the courtyard of his Sydney home.  Muise began spray-painting crosses on utility poles and downtown buildings on Good Friday
Glen Muise stands in front of a shrine to the Virgin Mary in the courtyard of his Sydney home. Muise began spray-painting crosses on utility poles and downtown buildings on Good Friday “so people will remember Jesus Christ,” but many people found his YouTube videos about the community offensive 2SLGBTQ+ and tagged them with Pride symbols and messages littered. — Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post

“Extremely annoying”

“That’s the annoying part for me. I mean, minor vandalism is one thing, but it’s obviously aimed at marginalized people, community members, people who are my family, my friends, my customers. So I find it extremely annoying. He says hateful, derogatory things. He intends to harm these people in ways that may not be physically violent, but he feels they are harming them,” Walsh said.

In a more recent video, Muise singled out Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall and Cape Breton Youth Project coordinator Madonna Doucette.

He calls McDougall “Mayor Mandy of Milan” and suggests that she was wanted by Interpol for crimes she committed while living in the Italian city. He also accuses her of being behind the cross cover-up and alleged attacks on a Marian shrine at his home.

“Are you forcing these trans and gay people to hurt me? Is that what it’s about? Guess what? You will also get a big surprise because we will investigate you. Do you have a federal warrant for your arrest over in Italy? Is that why you ran to France?” says Muise in the video.

A cross on this Prince Street mural was covered in rainbow colors and Pride symbols.  Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post
A cross on this Prince Street mural was covered in rainbow colors and Pride symbols. Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post

mayor anxious

McDougall said while she was studying in Milan and working as a nanny and translator, she was never wanted by the police. In fact, she said Muise is now being investigated by police over what she believes to be threatening statements.

In the video, Muise says, “Just to let you know, I’m watching you and I’ll see you 100 times before you see me once, so pay attention. I know who each of you is. I have seen you. Do you think I haven’t seen you? You better be looking over your shoulder. You never know who will come and pat you on the back and ask why you did it. Then what will you do? will you become violent I’m a non-violent person, so you’re going to get a shock.”

Fearing for her safety, McDougall contacted Police Commissioner Robert Walsh and a team of officers and mental health liaison officers is now investigating the situation.

“There are certain things you expect to do in public life, but watching this video in my office… made me hesitate to go to my car because I knew I was parked underneath, because I knew I was alone, because I knew there was a sign above my car that said ‘Reserved for Mayor’, so it’s very identifiable,” McDougall said.

“When you use words like ‘take care’, ‘I’ll follow you’, ‘I know your every step’, it takes things to another level. If you are threatening someone’s safety, it must be taken very seriously. And so I even sought legal advice on what to do to protect not only myself but my family as well. I’m a socialite, but I have a family, I have young children.”

‘Gay Agenda’

In the same video, Muise also makes derogatory remarks about Doucette. Doucette told the Cape Breton Post that she did not want to comment on the situation because it could bring negative attention to the Cape Breton Youth Project, which was recently the subject of alleged shooting threats against attendees at its Queer Prom.

“The youth project is in the process of figuring out how to move forward while maintaining the safety of our community that we serve,” she said.

“He talks about the gay agenda. My gay agenda is to make Nova Scotia a safer, healthier and happier place for binary, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.”

For his part, Muise claims he is the one being attacked. He said James Walsh came into his home and tried to break in while making death threats.

“When you use words like ‘take care’, ‘I’ll follow you’, ‘I know your every step’, it takes things to another level. — Mayor Amanda McDougall

The Doctor Luke’s owner said he visited Muise’s home but never threatened him or attempted to break into his home.

“I saw this video and received several messages from people in the community about it. I was angry. I was mad. I went to his house. I have a history with him because he came (to Doctor Luke) when he was getting espresso, so I know him a little bit. I thought I could talk to him about it and try to change his mind or get him to delete some of these videos. I was angry, but I didn’t try to force myself into his house. I didn’t try to physically threaten him. I was just upset.”

Muise said he had to cement his statue of the Virgin Mary to the ground after it was stolen several times and that people drove past his home, threatened him and painted over religious messages and crosses outside his home.

“I love Jesus Christ and I am sorry that these young people are hurting themselves because they are in a very dysphoric state. You have a mental illness,” he said.

“I put up the cross to remind people that there is good in life and that there was one human who walked this earth who died for all and was peaceful, loving and caring. That’s what I want to be.”

Two crosses on a power pole on Townsend Street in Sydney.  Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post
Two crosses on a power pole on Townsend Street in Sydney. Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post

‘It’s a sin’

Muise describes himself as a “traditional Catholic” and said he opposes homosexuality and transgender rights, but the crosses are not an expression of those beliefs.

“I think it’s a sin in the eyes of God,” he said.

“I have my opinions, they have theirs. I’m not in her face. I don’t go to her door, knock on her door and say conversion.”

McDougall said Muise could believe what he liked, but property damage and threats were unacceptable.

“You are free to believe and worship whatever you want in Canada – that’s your prerogative – but if you break a law, you break a law,” she said. “So defacing public and private property is a violation of the law. When you start threatening individuals, telling them to take care of them and making them feel unsafe, that’s a big problem. If you’re constantly harassing people, again very problematic. My hope through all of this is that he is honestly able to access the resources he needs to ensure he has everything he needs, the care he needs and the support he needs takes to stop it.”

Chris Connors is a corporate reporter at the Cape Breton Post.

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