Calgary police are hoping to track down the people responsible for a string of vandalism incidents at churches across the city in early July.
Eleven churches were targeted by vandals and splashed with red and orange paint on Canada Day, in what officials believe was a response to the discovery of unmarked graves at former Indigenous residential schools across the country.
In one case, police said handprints and “215” — the number of graves found at a residential school site in Kamloops — were seen on the exterior of the church, and a window had been broken so the paint could be splashed inside.
Days later, on July 4, the arson unit was investigating a suspicious fire at a church in Forest Heights. Investigators said at the time it may have been linked to the other vandalism incidents.
Investigators have identified suspects believed to be responsible for the vandalism at five of the 11 churches:
St. Bonaventure Catholic Church at 1600 Acadia Dr. was splashed with red and orange paint at about 2:40 a.m. on July 1, by a woman.
CCTV video shows the woman wearing a black hooded sweater with the hood up, dark pants and a dark mask at the time of the incident.
Holy Trinity Church was targeted about 1:45 a.m. on July 1, by multiple people who were seen smearing orange-paint handprints on the outside of the building. They also splashed paint on the sidewalks, police said.
Police have released images of one of the suspects, believed to be a woman, but shared no other identifying details.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, Grace Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s Cathedral were all believed to have been targeted by the same suspects. Police said at least three people vandalized those churches, but did not share suspect descriptions.
While there have been no more vandalism incidents, officers are still proactively patrolling around certain churches, which police said would continue “for the foreseeable future.”
The police service said it’s “committed to working toward peaceful reconciliation with the Indigenous community,” while still performing its necessary duties.
“We acknowledge the trauma, hurt and anger being felt by many in the community over the recent news of graves being found at former residential schools,” the police said.
“While the vast majority of people have been peacefully expressing their responses to these events, the illegal vandalism and burning of churches across the country is dangerous and wrong.”
Anyone with information on the suspects, or any of the vandalism incidents, is asked to contact police at 403-266-1234 or to contact Crime Stoppers.