Four Canadian Catholic Churches Burned To The Ground Amid Crackdown On Worship
Four Catholic churches located on Indigenous land in Canada’s British Columbia have burned to the ground in the past week, multiple sources reported.
The St. Ann’s Catholic Church and the Chopaka Catholic Church, both located in Similkameen Valley, burst into flames roughly one hour apart from each other Saturday evening following a series of church burnings, according to CNN. The Sacred Heart Church and St. George’s Church burned to the ground June 21, Canada’s National Indigenous People’s Day, at approximately 1:22 a.m.
Authorities are currently conducting investigations into the four fires and have deemed the incidents suspicious. Sgt. Jason Bayda of the Penticton South Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the investigations are currently underway and have discovered no new leads, according to BBC. (RELATED: CHURCHES ARE BURNING: What The Media Won’t Tell You)
“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,” Bayda wrote in a statement.
Keith Crow, chief of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, said the two fires Saturday are suspicious and that he looks forward to authorities’ discoveries.
“Of course it’s suspicious, two fires again, two more churches in one night. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with,” Crow told Global News Saturday.
Furthermore, Father Sylvester Obi Ibekwe, a parish priest of the Sacred Heart Church, described his sense of both helplessness and powerlessness after the church had been destroyed by the flames.
“The Church is gone. All I could see were ashes, ruins, rubbles. How could that be? What happened? What can I do now? I felt helpless and powerless,” Ibekwe wrote in a message to the parishioners Monday. “I started going round the ruins to see if there’s anything that can be saved, but there was nothing.”
The fires followed the discovery of 215 Indigenous students’ remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc announced in a news release May 27. Chief of the Cowessess First Nation Cadmus Delorme announced Thursday that 751 unmarked graves of Indigenous children were discovered at the former Marievel Indian Residential School.
The LSIB’s chief and council issued a statement Saturday describing the “intergenerational trauma” the Indigenous population currently faces regarding the discovery and expressed their sympathies regarding the destruction of the most recent burning, The Vancouver Island Free Daily reported.
“This is a symptom of the intergenerational trauma our survivor and intergenerational descendants are experiencing, there are supports to help heal with these emotions in a more healing way,” the leaders said in a statement Saturday. “While we cannot speculate the person(s) responsible had any connections to our Communities of Upper and Lower Similkameen all we can do now is be there to support others during this time of loss in community and the loss of our historical landmarks.”