Catholic Churches On Indigenous Land Burn Down In ‘Suspicious’ Circumstances
Catholic churches that were built on indigenous land in Canada have been burnt down in an act labelled ‘suspicious’.
In the early hours of June 21, two 100-year-old Catholic churches that were built on indigenous land in Canada were burnt down. The flames were seen by a Penticton RCMP officer on patrol, who noticed the fire was coming from Sacred Heart Church on Green Mountain Road.
By the time the officer arrived at the scene, the church was engulfed in flames.
Shortly after, at 3.10 am, Oliver RCMP was notified St. Gregory’s Church on Nk’mip Road was also burning. Both buildings ‘burned to the ground.’
According to Chief Greg Gabriel of the Penticton Indian Band, the Sacred Heart Church was destroyed very quickly, ‘It was a very old church and didn’t take very much time for it to completely burn down.’
The blazes come after the discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s remains at an old Catholic school. On the back of this discovery, the Canadian government has offered Indigenous people an apology but the Catholic church, which was part of the terrible incident, has not.
Despite calls for the Vatican to also issue an apology for its involvement, members of the church have only spoken about the sadness they have for the incident. On the back of this, some have speculated this silence could be motivation for the possible arson attacks.
Nonetheless, Sgt Jason Bayda, Media Relations Officer for the Penticton South Okanagan RCMP, said the authorities are not speculating the motive:
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. We are sensitive to the recent events, but won’t speculate on a motive.
In reaction to the incident, Father Thomas Kakkaniyil, the priest in charge of St. Gregory’s Church, said the church had been burnt down after it had its first mass in a year because of COVID-19. Kakkaniyil was also adamant that an attack on the churches would not have happened from within the community.
The priest told the Vancouver Sun, ‘Somebody from outside came and burned it as I understand it.’ Kakkaniyil added, ‘It was done on the Osoyoos First Nation land but not by those people. It was somebody else.’
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