Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on Friday condemned vandalism and suspected arson of churches following the discoveries of unmarked graves at former schools for indigenous children.
Around 150,000 indigenous Canadians were forced to attend the “Indian residential school system” over a period of 120 years, with most schools run by the Catholic church. A government commission concluded in 2015 that the school system perpetrated a “cultural genocide” against indigenous populations.
Since May of this year, over 1,100 unmarked graves of children have been discovered at the former schools. Ten Canadian churches were destroyed by fire following those discoveries, including several Catholic churches on indigenous lands in British Columbia.
— CityNews Calgary (@citynewscalgary) June 30, 2021
Police are treating the fires as “suspicious,” although no arrests have been made in the disparate cases. Meanwhile police in Calgary, Alberta, announced that ten churches were vandalized on Thursday night.
"I understand the anger that's out there," says PM Trudeau when asked re: church fires that have followed discoveries of graves at residential school sites; but PM asserts "we shouldn't be lashing out at buildings that can provide solace to some of our fellow citizens."#cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/HtuOqOvb8r
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) July 2, 2021
“It is unacceptable and wrong that acts of vandalism and arson are being seen across the country, including against Catholic churches,” Trudeau said at a press conference. “I understand the anger that’s out there….But I can’t help but think that burning down churches is actually depriving people who are in need of grieving and healing and mourning from places where they can grieve and reflect and look for support.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde condemned the suspected arson attacks in comments to Canada’s Global News on Wednesday.
“I can understand the frustration and the anger by people, and I would say that burning things down is not the way to proceed,” Bellegarde said. “I would say building things up would be the better way to proceed.” Bellegarde added that “to burn things down is not our way.”