The Vancouver Police Hate Crimes Unit is investigating shocking images that appear to show a white man urinating on the Komagata Maru memorial in Coal Harbour.

Const. Randy Fincham said the photos were taken the afternoon of Dec. 2 by outraged visitors at the monument, which pays tribute to the 356 Indian immigrants who were infamously refused entry to Canada in 1914.

“They unfortunately encountered this young man that was down at the memorial causing some mischief and causing some grief to people,” Fincham said.

Witnesses believe the yet-unidentified man, who appears disheveled in the photos, was drunk. Fincham said that wouldn’t mitigate the seriousness of the offence.

For it to qualify as a hate crime, police said the young man would have to have known the significance of the memorial when he urinated on it.

“We’re hopeful at this point that this is a misguided person that didn’t recognize the impact that this had,” Fincham said.

Surrey resident Pargan Mattu, who snapped the photos, told CTV News he was showing the monument to a friend visiting from India when the man hurled a soccer ball at it.

Mattu said the man asked, "What are you guys trying to prove?" then started desecrating the monument. The shocked friends threatened to take his picture and call police, according to Mattu, and the man replied, "Do whatever you want."

Officers are still trying to locate a suspect. Anyone with information on his identity can contact the Vancouver Police Department.

The Vancouver Park Board confirmed Thursday that staff have cleaned up the monument.

Board Chair Sarah Blyth issued a statement on behalf of all commissioners condemning the incident as a “disgraceful act.”

“We are saddened and deeply offended,” Blyth said. “The monument was created in partnership with the Khalsa Diwan Society to embrace multiculturalism and remind people about the devastating impacts that racial intolerance and discrimination have had upon our community.”

The 376 immigrants on the Komagata Maru steamship were seeking a better life in Canada when all but 20 were turned away.

The boat remained docked for months before sailing back to Calcutta, where police officers were waiting for them. A riot ensued, ending with 20 passengers being killed and several others jailed.