Two Catholic churches, which were on reserve lands in British Columbia, were destroyed by “suspicious” fires on Monday morning.
Sacred Heart Church, which was built in 1911 on Penticton Indian Band lands, has been reduced to ashes, as has St. Gregory Church built in 1910, in the Oliver area on the Osoyoos Indian Band lands.
RCMP said an officer was on patrol at 1:22 a.m. when he spotted a fire originating from the Church of the Sacred Heart on Green Mountain Road. By the time the officer arrived at the scene, the church was completely engulfed.
At 3:10 am Oliver RCMP learned that St. Gregory’s Church on Nk’mip Road was on fire.
“Both churches have burned down and the police consider the fires to be suspect,” said the sergeant. Jason Bayda in a press release.
“If our investigations consider these fires to be arson, the RCMP will consider all possible grounds and allow the facts and evidence to guide our investigation.
“We are sensitive to recent events, but we will not speculate on a motive.”
Penticton and Oliver are about 40 km apart, and the fires coincide with National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, during a time of deep animosity towards the Catholic Church in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among those who publicly criticize the Catholic Church for its role in Canada’s residential school system.
“As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed with the decision the Catholic Church has made now and over the past few years,” Prime Minister Trudeau said following the discovery of 215 child remains in Kamloops.
“Your comments are not only unnecessary, but should be viewed as a posture for political gain and another blatant attempt at continued cover-up,” retired Bishop of Calgary Fred Henry said in an open letter to Justin Trudeau at the continuation of the Prime Minister’s tirade of public indignation.
“The primary responsibility must rest with the federal government. “
While several Catholic bishops across Canada have apologized and requested the release of documents in response to the discovery in Kamloops, the Vatican has yet to issue an apology or release any documents.
As for the Canadian government, 15 tons of paper documents related to the residential school system between 1936 and 1944, including 200,000 Indian affairs files, were destroyed by the government of Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, according to the final truth report and reconciliation.
On May 31, St. Joseph’s Church in Kamloops was vandalized with the words “banished” and “crime scene” spray painted on the walls. The leader of the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc, Rosanne Casimir, condemned the vandalism.
On June 12, vandals wrote “release the records” and “killers” on the main entrance to St. Augustine’s Church in Vancouver, and St. Joseph’s Parish in Port Moody was also found vandalized on the morning of the 13th. June.
Reid Small is a British Columbia correspondent for the Western Standard