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.
Mr. 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, Canada's Prime Minister added.
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.
A major setback for the reconciliation effort
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.
Mr. 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 would not 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 is 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, Mr. Dumas said.
Premier Brian Pallister called the vandalism “a major setback for those who are working toward real reconciliation.”