Break-in estimated at 50K called a ‘major setback’ for Calgary’s deaf community

Earlier this year, Calgary’s deaf community celebrated the opening of a new gathering space.

Just over six months later, organizers say they need to start all over again.

Organizers with the Calgary Association of the Deaf (CAD) say they entered the organization’s offices on Sept. 9 to discover a painful scene.

“We entered the building and didn’t realize that our office had been broken into,” said Rytch Newmiller, CAD’s secretary and treasurer. “Everything had been stolen.”

According to Newmiller, thieves stole about $50,000 in material goods, including computers, iPads, laptops and video production equipment. They also stole items that are hard to put a dollar value on.

“The files, the papers, the documentation that we had … those were invaluable,” he said. “Our history, our antiques from the seniors who have donated … we had stuff from 1935 until now. So how do you place a value on that?”

File cabinets within the centre for the Calgary Association of the Deaf were damaged as part of Wednesday morning’s break-in. (Vincent Bonnay/CBC)

Calgary police said a break-in took place at the CAD offices at about 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 9, adding that they are currently seeking out information and potential witnesses.

“My heart, my energy, we have worked so hard for the last eight years doing fundraising for the local community,” Newmiller said. “The businesses that support us … everything is lost. It’s gone.”

One of only five spaces across Canada

CAD celebrated its 85th anniversary this year with the opening of the new centre in northwest Calgary, a location that took years of work to open.

It featured assistive technologies like video-relay services, and is one of only five spaces like it around Canada.

The Calgary Association of the Deaf celebrated the opening of its new building in March. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Clark Archibald, president of CAD, said the break-in means the organization will have to put all of its services — including those for seniors, youth and those intended to respond to COVID-19 — on hold.

“I feel really sad. I’m really upset. I feel almost like I’m grieving, really … It was quite the impact on [us] and we are a non-profit organization,” Archibald said. “I would never expect someone to come in to rob us.

“Now, everything is lost and we’re starting all over from day one.”

Beyond the material losses, CAD anticipates the break-in will have a huge impact on isolated persons that use the services of the organization on a daily basis.

“[To provide] services within Alberta, we’ve been struggling and fighting for that. And after the break-in, it’s really unfair that we have to start all over again,” Newmiller said.

“But we’re not giving up. We will fight back. We’ll make sure we have access for all deaf people in Alberta. We can’t lose that.”

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