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‘We do not destroy people’s places of worship’: Residential school survivors condemn attacks on churches

Click to play video: '‘Stop burning churches’ say residential school survivors' ‘Stop burning churches’ say residential school survivors
A group of residential school survivors in Vancouver is calling for national healing and an immediate end to the burning of churches. Grace Ke reports – Jul 5, 2021

A group of residential school survivors is calling for people to stop burning and defacing churches.

At a press conference in Vancouver on Monday morning, the group said a recent spate of arsons and vandalism at places of worship following the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have led to unnecessary strife, depression and anxiety for those already suffering.

Click to play video: 'B.C. residential school survivors want church burning to stop' B.C. residential school survivors want church burning to stop
B.C. residential school survivors want church burning to stop – Jul 5, 2021

“We do not spread hate, we love people, we do not destroy other people’s places of religion,” said Jenn Allan-Riley, a 60’s scoop survivor and the daughter of a residential school survivor.

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“We’re asking for people that are setting these fires to stop now.

Click to play video: '‘There are so many heartless people’: Church in B.C. First Nations village destroyed by second suspicious fire' ‘There are so many heartless people’: Church in B.C. First Nations village destroyed by second suspicious fire
‘There are so many heartless people’: Church in B.C. First Nations village destroyed by second suspicious fire – Jul 2, 2021

“We understand some people believe that they’re standing in solidarity with us Indigenous people as we find more graves across Canada. Burning down churches is not in solidarity with us Indigenous people.”

Read more: Indigenous priest speaks of ‘roller-coaster of emotions’ for residential schools and Catholic church

The group also said the sight of burning and vandalism can trigger traumatic feelings of violence and threats, further dividing Indigenous people and the rest of Canadian society.

Some residential school survivors who remain Catholics have also lost their places of worship where they may find comfort.

Read more: 182 human remains in unmarked graves found at site of former residential school in Cranbrook, B.C.

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The comments come days after Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said recent incidents of arson and vandalism targeting churches are not the way to proceed.

Click to play video: 'B.C. church burned and Captain Cook statue torn down' B.C. church burned and Captain Cook statue torn down
B.C. church burned and Captain Cook statue torn down – Jul 2, 2021

“I can understand the frustration, the anger, the hurt and the pain, there’s no question,” he said. “But to burn things down is not our way. Our way is to build relationships and come together.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the destruction of places of worship “unacceptable.”

“We must work together to right past wrongs,” he said.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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