Canada Separate fires destroy two Catholic churches in southern British Columbia
Raymond J. de Souza: Justin Trudeau can learn something from the church about apologies
Apologetics about apologies are understandably trying to some, but the truth requires it. Indeed, after more than a week of spouting false notions about the Catholic Church’s efforts to reconcile with Canada’s First Nations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might learn something from the very bishops he criticizes about how apologies are about those who were wronged, not about the offender putting on a performance. Last week, I detailed some of the dozens of apologies for the Indian Residential School System that have been offered since 1991 by various Catholic entities. A timeline may help put everything into context.
OLIVER, B.C. — A First Nations chief in southern British Columbia says there are mixed feelings in his community after a Catholic church burned to the ground in an overnight fire, one of two Catholic churches in the area that were destroyed in blazes that police consider suspicious.
Chief Greg Gabriel of the Penticton Indian Band said the Sacred Heart Church was a community fixture that hosted weddings and funerals but many people also feel pain due to the Roman Catholic Church's role operating abusive residential schools.
"There's a lot of anger, a lot of hurt in every First Nations, Indigenous community throughout Canada," he said, adding that he was not speculating on the cause of the fire.
Ottawa archbishop apologizes for Catholic Church's role in residential school system
Ottawa-Cornwall Archbishop Marcel Damphousse issued a formal apology Monday to Indigenous people for the Catholic Church's role in the residential school system. He also called on Pope Francis, the global head of the church of approximately 1.3 billion people, to apologize, as well. The apology is the latest expression of contrition from a Canadian Catholic leader since the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the discovery of what are believed to be the unmarked burial sites of children's remains adjacent to a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Sacred Heart is one of two churches in the area that were destroyed by fires early Monday morning.
Less than two hours after a patrol officer found it engulfed in flames, RCMP said a second fire was reported at St. Gregory's Church on the Osoyoos Indian Band reserve lands near Oliver, B.C.
RCMP said in a statement they are investigating both fires as suspicious.
"Should our investigations deem these fires as arson, the RCMP will be looking at all possible motives and allow the facts and evidence to direct our investigative action," Sgt. Jason Bayda said in the statement.
"We are sensitive to the recent events, but won’t speculate on a motive."
The fires come less than one month after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Nation in B.C. announced the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. It operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.
Ottawa Catholic school board trustee had Twitter account temporarily suspended after 'outrageous' tweet about Muslims
A local Catholic school board trustee saw his Twitter account temporarily suspended earlier this month after posting a tweet that critics decried as insensitive to the Muslim community. In a post on the social media site, Glen Armstrong dismissed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attendance at the funeral for a London Muslim family killed in a ramming attack earlier in June as a cynical political gesture. “Liberal Muslim vote secured,” Armstrong posted in reply to a tweet criticizing Trudeau for attending the funeral instead of showing up in-person to Parliament. Shortly after the post, Armstrong’s account was suspended.
Gabriel said the news of the unmarked graves rippled through the community and he wants to see those responsible held criminally accountable.
Video: 'Shameful' Catholic Church hasn't apologized over burial sites discovered at B.C. residential school, Indigenous Services minister says (Global News)
Police said they are liaising with both the Penticton and Osoyoos Indian Bands as part of the investigation into the church fires.
Gabriel said he was awoken by a staff member calling at 2 a.m. to report the church was on fire.
"I quickly rushed down to the church site and by the time I got there it was already gone. It was a very old church and didn't take very much time for it to completely burn down," he said.
The church was built around 1912, he said. It was adjacent to a day school for Indigenous children that also burned down years ago after it was shut down, although Gabriel did not believe that fire was suspicious.
Vandalism of statue at Catholic church in Edmonton follows other recent acts
EDMONTON — A statue was vandalized at a Catholic church in Edmonton on the weekend, one of a string of recent acts against Catholic churches following the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at two former residential school sites. Police in Edmonton say a female suspect was seen vandalizing a statue of Pope John Paul ll with paint outside of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church north of the city's downtown late Saturday night.
"I attended that school myself, the Indian day school. Even though it wasn't as traumatic as the residential school, we still suffered the abuse to some extent from the priests and the nuns," he said.
Children at the day school also attended religious services at the church, he said.
"Having said all that, there was a lot of community members today, especially the elderly ones (who were) saddened by the loss of this church because there were so many memories that were generated over the years — their children's baptism, their grandchildren's baptism," Gabriel said.
"There's mixed feelings throughout the community on the loss of this church."
Rev. Obi Ibekwa said he's the pastor for three parishes in the area including Sacred Heart Mission. He also arrived at the church grounds Monday morning to see what happened to the church, which he said had an average of seven attendees for weekly services.
"I would like to have an open mind and allow the investigation to play out."
— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Politicians, Indigenous leaders say burning churches not the way to get justice .
The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says he understands the rage, frustration and pain brought on by the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools, but funnelling that anguish into burning down churches will not bring justice. "To burn things down is not our way," Perry Bellegarde said Wednesday. "Our way is to build relationships and come together." Several Catholic churches have recently been vandalized or damaged in fires following the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.