Catholic Churches Are Being Burnt Down In Canada

BC, Canada, Catholic Church, Kamloops -

Catholic Churches Are Being Burnt Down In Canada

As Canada reels from the tragic news of unmarked and mass graves at residential schools run by the Catholic Church, several Churches have been burnt to the ground. Indigenous communities across Canada are beginning to unearth the remains of thousands of children who have been lost for decades as investigations into residential schools continue.

So What Are The Unmarked And Mass Graves About?

Recently in Saskatchewan at least 751 unmarked graves were found on the site of Marieval Indian Residential School, which was run by the Catholic Church. Less than a month beforehand the remains of as many as 215 children were also found in unmarked graves, at the site of a former Catholic Church run residential school in Kamloops, B.C. The Kamloops discovery led to a national self-reflection of Canada’s residential schools’ legacy and renewed calls to search the grounds of all former residential schools across North America.

Update: A Canadian Indigenous group, The Lower Kootenay Band, said it has found at least 182 human remains in unmarked graves near Cranbrook, British Columbia. The grave site is close to the former St. Eugene’s Mission School, which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1912 until the early 1970s.

Why Are Churches Being Burnt Down?

Since the discovery of the mass graves, at least four churches have been burnt to the ground. Currently, nobody knows who started the fires or why. However, given the current anger against the Catholic Church for its role in indigenous genocide and its involvement in the residential school horrors many are drawing conclusions that the two events are connected. Two Catholic Churches, St Ann's Church and the Chopaka Church were completely burnt down over the weekend began within an hour of each other in British Columbia. Last Monday two other Catholic churches in the province were also burnt down, on National Indigenous People's Day. Police said both buildings were completely destroyed, and they were treating the fires as "suspicious". 


Community Response To Church Burning

The burning of Churches has also increased the risk of wildfires, especially given B.C's ongoing heatwave which is placing temperatures at about 40 celsius. In at least one instance at the Chopaka church burning, the fire spread to nearby brush, but luckily B.C. Wildfire crews were able to attend to it before it spread. However, given the ongoing heatwave crisis, further Church burnings would endanger the community at large if the fires rage out of control. 


So who did it?

The fires are still under investigation and no suspects have been identified. Chief Keith Crow, of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, said, "There's got to be something more to it, ... "It's not just coincidence." He also said that the community was overall angry about the fires. While the Catholic church has refused to issue an apology for the residential schools' unmarked graves and years of severe abuse, local churches serve as community centers. They are usually used as points for people to meet, organized, and socialize making it difficult for communities to break away from the church.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, previously told a Canadian media outlet that there are "mixed emotions" about the Catholic Church among Penticton Indian Band members. Phillip added that said some members of the community have "an intense hatred for the Catholic Church in regard to the residential school experience. "RCMP said they're treating Saturday's fires as suspicious, and investigating any possible links to the Okanagan church fires. "The investigations into the previous fires and these two new fires are ongoing with no arrests or charges," 


How is the community reacting?

Several First Nations communities have taken part in ongoing memorial events for the residential school child victims. Including a Saturday convoy traveling from White Horse to Kamloops, a whopping 2,135 km journey, organized by the Syilx Okanagan Nation, it included a caravan of leaders, Indian residential school survivors, families, and elders that made the journey from Penticton to Kamloops. The caravan made several stops along the way to gather more Nation members before arriving in the early afternoon at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the remains of 215 children were found in late May.

"All the nations have been taking turns going to Kamloops to do ceremony The purpose is to bring our nations together to stand as one."


What were Indian Residential Schools?

In Canada, the Indian residential school system was a network of at least 130 boarding schools set up to educate and subjugate Indigenous peoples. The residential school network was funded by the Canadian government's Department of Indian Affairs and administered by various churches. The Catholic Church has historically been heinous towards vulnerable people worldwide, has carried out gynocides and involved itself in multiple genocides, and has centuries of instances of abuse against women and children. 

Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their home and families to erase their traditions and cultures and to ultimately assimilate them. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates more than 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada from the 1830s to 1996. Children at residential schools died at a far higher rate than those in the general population. In nearly a third of the deaths, the name of the child wasn’t recorded; nearly half did not list a cause of death. When the commission concluded in 2015, it had determined that at least 3,200 children died in residential schools. Since 2015, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has added 980 names to its memorial register which steadily keeps growing.


At least 3 more Churches have been set on fire across Canada, two in Alberta and a third in Nova Scotia. 

St. John Baptiste Parish in Morinville, in northern Alberta and north of Edmonton, was burnt down just after 3 a.m. the fire was so strong that firefighters were unable to enter the 114-year-old building and the roof collapsed a short time later. Earlier in the week, in Gleichen, Alberta., which is east of Calgary, there was potential attempt to set the Siksika Catholic Church on fire after midnight. Also in Edmonton Alberta, a statue of Pope John Paul ll outside of Holy Rosary Catholic Church was painted red. The base of the statue had dozens of red-painted hand prints representing the Church's indigenous child victims and the former pope's name was smeared with red paint.

In Indian Brook, Nova Scotia RCMP and local fire departments were dispatched to a fire call at 4:20 a.m. at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church, about 65 kilometres northwest of Halifax. The building also housed the band’s Katilin Healing and Cultural Centre.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school experience. Support is available at 1-866-925-4419.



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