Police probing damage
Calgary police are investigating after at least 11 city Catholic churches were vandalized.
The vandalisms discovered on Canada Day appear to be the latest in a series of recent protests against the church's historic involvement in Canada's residential school system. The vandalism at the churches included spattered paint over a statue of Jesus Christ, painted handprints on doors and text reading “Charge the priests” and “Our lives matter.”
At one church, a window was smashed so paint could also be thrown inside. At another, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Renfrew, the number 751 was spray-painted across the sign, a reference to the 751 unmarked graves identified by Saskatchewan's Cowessess First Nation at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.
Hundreds more graves were also recently found at British Columbia residential schools near Kamloops and Cranbrook; more than 130 residential schools operated in Canada between 1831 and 1996.
Police said the vandalism is thought to have taken place late Wednesday or early Thursday morning.
In a news release, Calgary police acknowledged the traumatic legacy of residential schools, calling it “a very dark part of our history” that destroyed countless lives of Indigenous people.
“The recent discovery of these graves further supports the tragic and heartbreaking stories that Indigenous people have been sharing for many decades,” the Calgary Police Service release said.
“Given the harm this chapter of our history has caused to Indigenous people in our community, it is understandable that emotions and tensions are running high.”
Police said vandalism like this is illegal, however, adding it creates further division within Calgary. They said they are searching for those responsible.
“Investigators are currently examining the evidence at the scenes and looking for any CCTV that could help identify those involved,” police said.
“The Hate Crime and Extremism Unit is also involved in the cases since the locations vandalized are all part of the Christian faith.”
Eleven Calgary churches were vandalized Thursday:
Saint Bonaventure Catholic Church at 1600 Acadia Dr. S.E.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church at 819 13th Ave. S.W.
Saint Mary's Cathedral at 219 18th Ave. S.W.
Sacred Heart Church and Columbarium at 1307 14th St. S.W.
Grace Presbyterian Church at 1009 15th Ave. S.W.
Saint Luke's Parish at 1566 Northmount Dr. N.W.
Holy Trinity Church at 1525 45th St. S.E.
Saint Anthony's Catholic Parish at 5340 4th St. S.W.
All Nations Full Gospel Church at 1403 8th Ave. S.E.
Saint Joseph Catholic Church at 640 19th Ave. N.W.
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church at 704 6th St N.E.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary did not immediately respond to request for comment from Postmedia.
On Twitter on Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the vandalism “appalling.”
“This is where hatred based on collective guilt for historic injustices leads us. Let's seek unity, respect and reconciliation instead,” he said. Similar acts of vandalism have been documented elsewhere in Canada, including in Edmonton and Saskatoon. Two fires at Alberta Catholic churches are also being investigated as arsons. The 1907 Morinville Catholic church was razed by fire early Wednesday, and a fire was started at the Siksika
First Nation Catholic Church early Monday, but local firefighters extinguished the blaze before any significant structural damage occurred.
Kenney condemned the Morinville fire and committed funding to protect churches from vandalism and violence.
“This scale of violence attacking a faith community is an attack on constitutionally protected freedom of religion, it is an attack on Canadian values,” Kenney said Wednesday, calling the attacks a hate crime.
That language led to criticism from Alberta's Chiefs of the Sovereign Nations of Treaty No. 8, who said Kenney's language will only promote hatred toward Alberta's Indigenous populations.
“Kenney must recant his statement and apologize for perpetuating harm on Indigenous Peoples, and more specifically residential school survivors,” the chiefs said in a joint statement.
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.