Red painted handprints and the words “We were children” covered the doors of St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in downtown Saskatoon Thursday evening, following the news of an estimated 751 unmarked graves found at the former site of Marieval Indian Residential School on Cowessess First Nation.
Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon said he was at the Cathedral of the Holy Family Thursday evening when he heard the news of what was happening.
“The rector called me with a concern about the paint that was spread at the entrance and some of the threat of violence that seemed to be developing in terms of some of the interactions in front of the cathedral,” Hagemoen said.
Hagemoen said he believes there were people inside the church at the time of the event.
“Tensions are high, but I think that needs to be kind of understood,” Hagemoen said.
“Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and Catholics included have a real heart for what’s going on right now in terms of the larger context of the discovery.”
Hagemoen said there is a reconciliation commission within the Roman Catholic Church made up of Elders and other Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples working together.
Read more: ‘They made us believe we didn’t have souls’ — Survivors of Saskatchewan residential school speak out
“This is bringing to mind … discovering the truth of who and the circumstances of the burial of Indian residential school sites and then moving to a place of honoring,” Hagemoen said.
The recent discovery comes weeks after 215 unmarked burial sites were reported at a residential school in Kamloops.
Saskatoon police confirmed their presence to Global News in an emailed statement on Friday and said they have been in contact with both church officials and demonstrators.
“It is understood that two individuals were involved in applying the paint; however, a larger group was present for the demonstration. No charges have been laid,” police said.
The paint on the church has since been removed.