Canada: Two more Catholic churches on First Nations reserves destroyed by fire | Canada


Two other Catholic churches on First Nations reserves in western Canada were destroyed by fires that investigators once again consider suspect.

Over the weekend, teams from southern British Columbia responded to morning fires at St Ann’s Church on Upper Similkameen Indian Band lands and at Chopaka Church on Indian Band lands Lower Similkameen. The two churches, built of wood and more than 100 years old, were reduced to ashes.

The fires come nearly a week after the destruction of two other churches and amid growing anger over the church’s role in Canada’s campaign to forcibly assimilate Indigenous peoples.

In recent weeks, the country has been rocked by the discovery of nearly a thousand anonymous graves at the sites of church-run residential schools where indigenous children were forcibly converted to Christianity and stripped of their names, customs and mother tongue.

The Catholic Church has faced calls for more transparency about its role in schools – and an apology from the Pope.

After the fires this weekend, the Chief and Council of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band said in a statement they were “in disbelief” and “angry”.

“[It] will be deeply felt for those who sought solace and solace in the church.

But the statement also acknowledged the “heartbreak and rage” felt by many Indigenous communities across the country following the discovery of anonymous graves by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia and the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.

“This is a symptom of the intergenerational trauma our survivors and intergenerational descendants are going through, there are supports to help deal with these emotions in a more healing way,” said Lower Similkameen.

On Friday, the Catholic Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who operated 48 schools, including the two former schools where the graves were found, said they would release all documents in their possession.

Chief Keith Crow of Lower Similkameen said in an interview with Castanet that the fires had been “devastating” to Catholics in the community, who recently celebrated a service in the church two weeks ago – but warned that the communities were “more injured now” as searches for anonymous graves began in other communities.

“When all the other residential schools start testing, there will be more and more pain that comes out of it; the 215 [graves found at the first site] was just the start.

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