Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denounced the burning and vandalism of Catholic churches that followed discovery of unmarked graves and former schools for Indigenous childrenBy JIM MORRIS Associated PressJuly 2, 2021, 10:28 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleVANCOUVER, British Columbia — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday denounced the burning and vandalism of Catholic churches that has followed discovery of unmarked graves and former schools for Indigenous children.Several Catholic churches have recently been vandalized or damaged in fires following the discovery of more than 1,100 unmarked graves at the sites of three former residential schools run by the church in British Columbia and Saskatchewan that generations of Indigenous children had been forced to attend .The nation also saw a series of attacks Thursday — Canada Day — on statues of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and other historical figures.Trudeau, himself a Catholic, said he understands the anger many people feel toward the federal government and Catholic church. The government has apologized for the schools and Trudeau has called on Pope Francis, too, to make a formal apology.“It’s real and it is fully understandable given the shameful history we are all become more aware of,” he told a news conference.“I can’t help but think that burning down churches is actually depriving people who are in need of grieving and healing and mourning from places where they can grieve and reflect and look for support.”On Thursday, statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature were tied with ropes and pulled down by a crowd.The statue of Queen Victoria was covered in red paint and its base had red handprints on it. On the steps behind the statue were hundreds of tiny shoes, placed there to recognize the children who went to residential schools.Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, was at a separate event at the time but said he was shocked at what happened.“I personally wouldn’t have participated in that,” he said, though he added, “Mind you, it has been a very triggering time over the past few weeks.”“It’s unfortunate that they chose to express themselves the way that they did. But it’s actually a symbol of the fact that there is a lot of hurt and that there’s a lot of frustration and anger with just how things have happened,” Dumas said.Premier Brian Pallister called the vandalism “a major setback for those who are working toward real reconciliation.”“Those who commit acts of violence will be pursued actively in the courts. All leaders in Manitoba must strongly condemn acts of violence and vandalism, and at the same time, we must come together to meaningfully advance reconciliation,” he said in a statement.In other incidents on Canada Day, a statue of Queen Victoria in Kitchener, Ontario, was doused in red paint.In Victoria, British Columbia, a statue of Captain James Cook was dismantled and thrown into the harbor. The statue was replaced with a wooden cutout of a red dress — a symbol representing murdered and missing Indigenous women — and its base was smeared with red handprints.In St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, two prominent buildings and a statue dedicated to the local police force were vandalized with bright red paint.Earlier this week, a First Nations group in British Columbia said it had used ground-penetrating radar to find 182 human remains in unmarked graves at a site close to a former residential near Cranbrook, 525 miles (845 kilometers) east of Vancouver.That followed reports of similar massive findings at two other such church-run schools, one of more than 600 unmarked graves in southern Saskatchewan and another of 215 bodies in British Columbia.Some 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools, which operated for more than 120 years in Canada. More than 60% of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.
Officials are hunting for any missing residents of a British Columbia town destroyed by wildfire, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered federal assistanceBy JIM MORRIS Associated PressJuly 2, 2021, 8:07 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleVANCOUVER, British Columbia — Officials on Friday hunted for any missing residents of a British Columbia town destroyed by wildfire as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered federal assistance.The province’s Coroner’s Service said it had received reports of two deaths related to the fire, but had not been able to send coroners in to confirm because “the area is still unsafe to attend.” It said it planned to send them in on Saturday.The roughly 1,000 residents of Lytton had to abandon their homes with just a few minutes notice Wednesday evening after suffering the previous day under a record high of 121.2 Fahrenheit (49.6 Celsius).Officials said it was unclear whether anyone remained in the village 95 miles (150 kilometers) northeast of Vancouver due to a lack of cell service and because it wasn’t safe to enter most of the area.“We do know there are some people who are unaccounted for,” said Mike Farnworth, the province’s public safety minister, though he said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Red Cross were working to locate people.The main wireless provider for the area, Telus Corp., said Friday it has deployed emergency communications equipment to help authorities and emergency crews dealing with the wildfires.Meanwhile, a woman who escaped the fire, said she didn’t even have time to put shoes on before fleeing.The Canadian Press reported that Noeleen McQuary-Budde said her husband stepped out of the house and returned moments later, screaming that a fire was upon them and they had to leave.She said black smoke was pouring down the village’s main street and fire seemed to be coming from all directions as they drove out of town with 11 other people piled in the back of their pickup.“The whole village of Lytton went up in I would say 10 minutes,” she said.“We were watching it burn and just thanking Creator that we got out.”The couple spent the night on the field of a recreation center in nearby Lillooet with their 120-pound (55 kilogram) dog, Daisy.In Ottawa, Trudeau pledged that the federal government will “help rebuild and help people come through this.”Trudeau said he had spoken with British Columbia Premier John Horgan and John Haugen, acting chief of the of Lytton First Nation and planned to convene an emergency response group.Another wildfire threat at Kamloops, 220 miles (355 kilometers) northeast of Vancouver, forced an evacuation of about 200 people Thursday night, but officials said they could return Friday.Kamloops also recorded a record his temperature this week of 117 Fahrenheit, (47.3 Celsius) but it had cooled down to around 90 (32) on Friday.“I can’t imagine what the firefighters are going through working in these conditions,” said Noelle Kekula, a fire information officer for the British Columbia Wildfire Service. “We are up for a real battle.”The Wildfire Service said at least 106 fires were burning across the province, including dozens that started within just the past two days.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Leaders of Indigenous groups in Canada said Thursday investigators have found more than 600 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school for Indigenous children — a discovery that follows last month’s report of 215 bodies found at another school.The bodies were discovered at the Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 where the Cowessess First Nation is now located, about 85 miles (135 kilometers) east of Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan.A search with ground-penetrating radar resulted in 751 ‘’hits,” indicating that at least 600 bodies were buried in the area, said Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess. The radar operators have said their results could have a margin of error of 10%.“We want to make sure when we tell our story that we’re not trying to make numbers sound bigger than they are,” Delorme said. “I like to say over 600, just to be assured.”He said the search continues and the radar hits will be assessed by a technical team and the numbers will be verified in coming weeks.Delorme said that the graves were marked at one time, but that the Roman Catholic Church that operated the school had removed the markers.On Twitter, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “terribly saddened” to learn of the latest discovery.“My heart breaks for the Cowessess First Nation following the discovery of Indigenous children buried at the former Marieval Residential School,” he said, adding that ‘’we will tell the truth about these injustices.”Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the entire province mourns the discovery of the unmarked graves.Don Bolen, Archbishop of Regina, Saskatchewan, posted a letter to the Cowessess First Nation on the archdiocese’s website.“The news is overwhelming and I can only imagine the pain and waves of emotion that you and your people are experiencing right now,” Bolen wrote.Bolen said two years ago he apologized to the Cowessess people for the “failures and sins of Church leaders in the past.”“I know that apologies seem a very small step as the weight of past suffering comes into greater light, but I extend that apology again, and pledge to do what we can to turn that apology into meaningful concrete acts – including assisting in accessing information that will help to provide names and information about those buried in unmarked graves,” he said.Florence Sparvier, 80, said she attended the Marieval Indian Residential School.“The nuns were very mean to us,” she said. “We had to learn how to be Roman Catholic. We couldn’t say our own little blessings.”Nuns at the school were “condemning about our people” and the pain inflicted continues generations later, Sparvier said.“We learned how to not like who we were,” she said. “That has gone on and it’s still going on.”Last month the remains of 215 children, some as young as 3 years old, were found buried on the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia.Following that discovery, Pope Francis expressed his pain over the discovery and pressed religious and political authorities to shed light on “this sad affair.” But he didn’t offer the apology sought by First Nations and by the Canadian government.“An apology is one stage in the way of a healing journey,” Delorme said.“This was a crime against humanity, an assault on First Nations,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations in Saskatchewan. He said he expects more graves will be found on residential school grounds across Canada.“We will not stop until we find all the bodies,” he said.From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools, the majority of them run by Roman Catholic missionary congregations, in a campaign to assimilate them into Canadian society.The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant in the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages.