Police in the Canadian province of Alberta are investigating at least a dozen graffiti on Catholic churches. Among other things, church doors are stained with red and orange hand prints and texts such as “Our life is important– “Our lives are important” – and “they persecuted the priests,” as statues of Mary and Jesus were defaced and windows smashed.
These panels follow a series of discoveries of mass graves containing the remains of hundreds of Aboriginal children in former boarding schools. Between 1850 and 1970, these boarding schools housed approximately 150,000 Aboriginal children living here forced To assimilate the dominant European culture. Children were subjected to severe physical and mental abuse and many died.
On the sign of one of the damaged churches, the number 751 is written in large font, referring to 751 unmarked graves discovered at a boarding school in Saskatchewan. In another church the number 215 can be seen, reference to one of the other mass graves.
The shocking discoveries raised tension and cast a dark shadow over Canada’s National Day holiday yesterday, when a number of Aboriginal groups demonstrated. The anger of many indigenous groups is directed against the Canadian government and the Catholic Church. Over the past few weeks a number of churches have gone on fire.
Alberta Premier Kenny visited one of the stained churches, the African Evangelical Church, and called for reflection. He stresses that the entire faith community in this particular church is made up of refugees. “These people fled to Canada in the hope that they could safely practice their faith here. This is where we end up hating on the collective censure of historical injustice.
Police in Calgary respond to the latest graffiti with an understanding of strong feelings, but they maintain that this type of vandalism is illegal and further dividing society. Perpetrators are wanted.
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