The tents were going up, the decorations ready, and the kids were excited. It was June 30 in Montreal's Dorchester Square, and in the midst of all the red and white was a message: "Fuck Canada."
One Montrealer, who has made it his mission to erase messages of hate, decided to do something.
"I don't think that a family should have to come down to the middle of downtown Montreal in order to celebrate Canada Day, get there, start eating and look up and see in big writing 'Fuck Canada,'" Corey Fleischer told HuffPost Canada in an interview. "That should have been taken care of right away."
An online follower tipped Fleischer off and asked him to take care of it. Fleischer has gained a large following for posting photos of swastikas and other hateful symbols he erases from public space on his spare time.
"It was an absolutely great feeling to remove it," he said.
Fleischer owns graffiti removal company Provincial Power Washing. Seven years ago, he was driving to a job when he saw a huge swastika on a cinderblock.
"It was something I was thinking about for the rest of the day," he said. He went back the same day to remove it, and the feeling he got was "euphoric."
"It's become my life," Fleischer said of removing hate. "It's very hard for me to explain the feeling that comes along with this."
Since that day, Fleischer has removed thousands vulgar markings in Montreal. After he started posting photos and videos online under the name "Erasing Hate," he's received messages from around the world.
It's become my life.Corey Fleischer
Now, followers can send photos of graffiti anywhere in the world, and Fleischer will do his best to arrange its removal. He says he's erased hate crimes from cities across Canada and the United States, in Israel, Africa, and Europe. If it can't be done by someone free of charge, Fleischer will pay out of his own pocket.
He estimates that more than 80 per cent of what he removes is anti-Semitic, while the other messages attack Muslims, LGBTQ people, and black people.
"I'm not religious in the least bit, but I'm a very proud Jewish person ... When I start seeing, in the city that I'm very fond of, swastikas everywhere that have been left up for 20, 25, 30 years and no one's doing anything about it ... I'm the type of person that's going to do something about it."
While municipalities remove graffiti on public space, they usually won't take spraypaint down on private property.
"You're the victim of a hate crime, and now you have to pay $500 to $1,000 to have it removed."
By offering graffiti removal for free, Flesicher hopes to inspire others to take things into their own hands. He says it's possible for anyone to take action and help "stop the cycle of hate."