Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has denounced the ongoing spree of arson and vandalism targeting churches as “unacceptable.” The attacks are believed to be retaliation to historic abuses of indigenous children in church-run schools.
“It is unacceptable and wrong that acts of vandalism and arson are being seen across the country, including against Catholic churches,” Trudeau said on Friday, less than 24 hours after statues of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria were torn down by protesters in Winnipeg without any interference by police.
The latest acts of vandalism followed a spree of attacks on Catholic churches built on First Nation lands. At least seven churches have caught fire in recent weeks, since the grim discovery of more than 1,100 unmarked graves at sites where Catholic-run residential schools used to operate.
Tensions ran especially high on Canada Day, celebrated on Thursday, and at least 10 Calgary churches were defaced with red spray-paint, some marked with the words “we were children” and “our lives matter.”
Trudeau said that while he understands the grievances of indigenous peoples who are taking out their anger on the churches, he argued the attacks were “depriving people who are in need of grieving and healing and mourning places.” He called for reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, adding that years might pass before the wounds are healed.
“What took generations and centuries to break in terms of the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, it will take more than just a few years to fix it all.”
While the Canadian government now acknowledges the widespread boarding school abuses, the Catholic church has never formally apologized for what many indigenous people see as acts of cultural and physical genocide.