French authorities are searching for the person responsible for desecrating the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France with graffitied “environmental slogans.”

A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) said the alleged vandal was “a misguided individual with a cause.”

Veterans Affairs Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor released a statement condemning the act.

“As all Canadians know, this is a sacred place commemorating the sacrifice of the 60,000 Canadians who gave their lives in order to protect the freedoms of the citizens of France and Belgium over 100 years ago during the First World War,” said Petitpas Taylor.

“The memorial bears the names of those who died in France with no known grave and stands as a tribute to all Canadians who served during the First World War. It should inspire us to work toward lasting peace, for which those commemorated here gave their lives.”

The Vimy Foundation, which manages the memorial, said it was “deeply disheartened to learn about the recent act of vandalism.

“Such actions disrespect the memory of the 11,285 Canadians missing in France with no known grave, whose names are listed on the monument,” the foundation wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

A source told Global News the vandalism was environmental in nature and that the slogans were written in French.

Petitpas Taylor confirmed that the Canadian government is working in tandem with French authorities to conduct an investigation into who the vandal might be. 

“VAC officials are currently working with colleagues at Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to ensure that the graffiti is removed as soon as possible,” said Petitpas Taylor.

The monument was built to commemorate soldiers who fought and lost their lives at the Battle of Vimy Ridge which lasted for three days in 1917. The battle took the lives of 3,598 Canadian soldiers with another 7,000 being wounded. 

Conservative veterans affairs critic Blake Richards and Quebec lieutenant Pierre Paul-Hus also condemned the vandalism.

“Those who committed this appalling act of vandalism should be ashamed of their actions, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Canada and France must stand together in showing that there will be zero tolerance for these actions,” they wrote in a statement.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, close to 100,000 Canadian soldiers attacked the German barricade at Vimy Ridge and after three consecutive days of fighting, they succeeded in capturing it. 

The victory at Vimy Ridge marked a pivotal shift in World War I and is seen as a defining moment of independence in Canada’s history. 

In 1922, the French government ceded Vimy Ridge and its surrounding land in Givenchy-en-Gohelle to Canada in appreciation for the over 11,000 Canadians who died in France during the first world war. Prime Ministers visiting France on diplomatic trips will often visit the memorial.

There has been a string of vandalism by environmental activists across Europe in recent months, including at some art museums