Two Roman Catholic churches built on indigenous land were burned down in southern Okanagan in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The incidents occurred on National Indigenous People’s Day.
The incidents of church burning comes within a month of discovery of mass graves of 215 children at a former Indian Residential School that fuelled the nation's anger over Catholic Church's treatment of indigenous people.
Two Roman Catholic churches built on indigenous land were burned down in southern Okanagan in the Canadian province of British Columbia, Vancouver Sun reported.
Penticton South Okanagan Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are treating the fires, which occurred on National Indigenous People’s Day, as 'suspicious'.
Vancouver Sun quoted Penticton South Okanagan RCMP spokesman Sgt. Jason Bayda as saying that an officer on patrol spotted fire emerging out of the Sacred Heart Church on Penticton Indian Band land at around 1:20 a.m.
Less than two hours later — at 3:10 a.m. — Oliver RCMP and the Oliver Fire Department were informed that St. Gregory’s Church on Osoyoos Indian Band land was ablaze.
“Both churches burned to the ground and police are treating the fires as suspicious,” Bayda said.
The incidents of church burning comes within a month of discovery of mass graves of children at a former Indian Residential School fuelled the nation's anger over Canada and the Catholic Church's treatment of indigenous people.
The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were discovered in British Columbia, Canada, buried underneath on the site of a former residential school for indigenous children.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 indigenous children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was shut in 1978, was one of boarding schools established with the objective to obliterate First Nation culture. The school was run by the Catholic Church from 1890 to 1969. The institutions were notorious for the brutality it unleashed on the children. The school had a peak enrolment of 500 in the 1950s.
The federal government took over administration of the school from 1969 to 1978, using the building as a residence for students attending other Kamloops schools.
Kamloops Indian Residential School operated from 1890 to 1969.
Canada's residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, constituted "cultural genocide," a six-year investigation had found in 2015.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined that the residential schools were a system of "cultural genocide". It concluded that at least 4,100 students died while attending the schools, many of them due to abuse, negligence, disease, or accident.
The report highlighted in a great detail the horrific physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities suffered by many of the 150,000 children who attended the schools, typically run by Christian churches on behalf of Ottawa from the 1840s to the 1990s.
"The news that remains were found at the former Kamloops residential school breaks my heart - it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country's history. I am thinking about everyone affected by this distressing news. We are here for you," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Friday.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) urged federal government and the Roman Catholic Church to take action following the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried on the Kamloops Indian Residential School grounds.
In a media release, IRSSS co-chair Rick Alec, a member of the Ts'kw'aylaxw First Nation, called for action specifically from the Pope.
"My Creator is asking their God why disciples would do this to us," he said. "The Pope needs to answer this question. There is no more denying it. Now there is physical evidence from these unmarked graves."