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