Canada’s House of Commons

Canada: Government Refuses to Condemn Burning of Catholic Churches

Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberals were quick to condemn vandalism against Islamic mosques, such as anti-Islam graffiti on the facade of the Cambridge Islamic Center on February 12.

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(ZENIT News / Ottawa, 21.03.2024).- The Liberals of Canada’s House of Commons rejected the proposal to condemn unanimously the latest fire against a Catholic church.

On February 9, the church of the Most Holy Sacrament, in the center of Regina, was set on fire. Three days later, on February 12, Conservative Deputy Corey Tochor called for the Canadian House of Commons’ unanimous condemnation of the incident, but the voters of the governing  Liberal-NDP coalition rejected her request.

Since the alleged finding of common graves near a former residential school in Kamploos, British Columbia, in May of 2021, attacks began against Catholic churches in Canada, including fires and vandalism. One hundred churches have been set on fire despite the fact that it’s been revealed that there is no such thing as common graves.

In May of 2021, the First Nation Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, near Kamloops, in British Columbia, said that investigators had found 215 anomalies in the terrain of the former Indian boarding school of Kamloops. The Indian leaders said immediately, without proofs, that it could be about numberless Indian children compelled to attend the school.

In Canada’s western communities, including some of the First Nations (as Indian groups are called), and in other parts of the country, the fires in 33 churches investigated by CBC News have burnt down to the foundations since May of 2021, in a first stage of vandalism. Only two were declared to be accidental. Twenty-four were carried out deliberately and others continued under investigation. And some community leaders suggested that Canada’s colonial history and the discovery of burials in former residential schools were the cause of the fires.

Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian tribe recalled that he was compelled to go to church as a child to learn the Word of God. He didn’t like it. “We were pagans, right? We were savages. We had to come here and have the white man save our souls. That’s what they taught us.” He admitted his contempt for Catholicism, but is angry because someone set fire to Saint Gregory’s church, the second church to be burnt, together with the Sacred Heart church in the Indian tribe of Penticton, 40 kilometers north of Osoyoos. “It annoyed me that some vandals of the area caused the fire,” he said to CBC News, pointing directly to the youths of the area’s Indian reservations.

During the interventions in the House of Commons, Deputies Garnett Genuis (Conservative) and Leah Gazan (of the NDP) argued about the draft bill C-29, which proposes  a National Council for Reconciliation. Genuis tried to convince Gazan to condemn specifically the attacks on churches in Indian communities.

“Many churches in Indian communities, sacred areas for Indian Christians, permeated with personal and family traditions, and sometimes with important community records, have been vandalized or burnt. Not only do these fires damage property but they are also very dangerous for human life. We haven’t heard a thing from the NDP about these incidents,” said Genuis.

Gazan insinuated that Garnett Genuis was suggesting an implicit racist message to get an answer. “I’m not sure who burns the churches and why the Member relates it with this speech. Is he insinuating that they are Indian people? Does he have proofs of that? If he doesn’t have them, I would say he is a stereotype. I would also call him a racist. I would first ask the Deputy if he has proofs and I would then be prepared to discuss it because, without knowing what the answer is, it’s very difficult for me to respond what is at the root of the problem.”

Genuis denied that he assumed or suggested who carried out the fires. “It worries me not only how those attacks on churches undermine religious liberty, but also how they are an aspect of the destruction of the cultural patrimony of those Indian communities.” And he urged Gazan to condemn the attacks.

The National Catholic Register sought the basis of the NDP and of the Liberals to reject the condemnation of the profanation of the churches, but Canada’s Liberal Party, the NDP and Gazan refused to answer.

Garnett Genuis pointed out that the position of the Liberals and of the NDP is eloquent. “When it’s about attacks on churches there is clearly a sort of conspiracy of silence on the part of the NDP-Liberal coalition. They don’t come out and condemn publicly these attacks, although they keep total silence in this regard, they are clear in criticizing attacks on other communities. It’s clearly a choice; it’s not by accident, and it’s shameful.”

The Liberals condemned immediately the vandalism against Islamic mosques, as well as graffiti against Islam on the façade of Cambridge’s Islamic Center on February 12. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “vandalism in the Islamic Center of Cambridge and the increase of islamophobia throughout the country is alarming, abhorrent and unacceptable. I energetically condemn this incident and am in solidarity with the Muslim communities against this hatred. We must confront and combat islamophobia together.”

Jagmeet Singh, the NDP’s leader, also expressed his solidarity after the anti-Islamic attack. “This is horrendous. The graffiti motivated by hatred found in the Islamic Center of Cambridge this week is unacceptable. The increase of islamophobia is deeply worrying; it must be confronted in every instance. Hatred has no place in our country.”

During the burning of churches in 2021, Trudeau said he understood  the motive for setting Christian churches on fire. And he rejected the fire in the Most Holy Sacrament parish in a comment on February 19.

Like Trudeau, Singh has kept silent about the  recent fire in a Catholic church, for which Jordan Willet, 31, was arrested and accused  of contempt for human life and received two non-compliance charges to a probation order.

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Rafael Manuel Tovar

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