Destroying Canadian Churches; A Hate Crime? or Modern Political Expression?

While we don’t normally cover anything political, especially local, our last report in support of local businesses who failed to receive the advertising they paid for, blew up. And in support of spiritual institutions without disregard for progress, we felt the need to publish this piece. With a background in political history and religion, as well as running The World’s Largest Free Classics Archive, teaching religion, myth, and classical history to almost a million people each month, we see the subject as just up our alley.

–M. L. Andres

The Canadian government is failing to uphold our charter rights by not protecting Canadian churches and historical figures.

During a time where Canadians are mourning and the flags are set to half mast, a series of attacks ranging from fires to vandalism against churches have been reported across the provinces.

These acts of arson and vandalism were originally primarily targeted towards Catholic Churches, unfortunately, the attacks have now spread to various churches, temples, mosques and other centres of worship like a Vietnamese Christian church which recently caught fire in Calgary, A.B this June as well as a Coptic Orthodox church which was completely burned in Surrey, B.C in July.

The St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey was destroyed by an early-morning fire on Monday, July 19, 2021. PHOTO BY SHANE MACKICHAN

Currently, there has been more than 50 reported acts of vandalism and arson at churches across Canada, at least 10 have burned completely beyond rescue, more than 15 churches damaged and at least five vandalized to some degree requiring repairs.

Every single attack on a religious institution needs to be condemned and investigated by the Canadian government. People who commit these acts should be prosecuted, but more importantly we need to have an open discussion about protecting our religious freedoms in Canada through a fair process.

The attacks started to occur after an announcement on May 27 which revealed the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia using ground penetrating technology. The discovery was a shameful moment, it exposed the true horrors committed on the residential school cemetery decades after they were shut down.

“It’s a part of our collective history, we should have an open conversation and speak truth about that fact.” Said Rev., Jake Van Pernis; of the Grace Presbyterian Church, which recently had its doors vandalized with red paint. 

Activists and vigilantes alike have committed these attacks on religious institutions and historical figures without a regard for whether they were involved with the residential school programs or not; leading to concern for many groups, who feel as if their safety is not being considered fairly.

Prominent Indigenous Leader and Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Murray Sinclair posted a relevant statement about the people who commit these attacks on historical and religious sites across Canada.

“The people who commit these acts and those who condone them, need to understand how much they set back any chance of moving the dialogue on changing the bad relationship we have, forward.” Sinclair Said.

The destruction of Canadian churches has a direct effect on many practicing religious people, not limiting to only the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Other groups of people are starting to fear that these attacks will become normalized, and communities could lose their religious sites completely like what happened to the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey, B.C

Politicians have condemned the attacks but as of writing there has not been an official resolution to this problem from the elected liberal government. These attacks are detrimental to protecting Canadian religious freedoms and should not be allowed to continue.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that arsons are “unacceptable and wrong” as well as “may be understandable” which is concerning, because this is not a clear indication that the government is not attempting to protect our religious freedoms as Canadians in fear of saying the wrong thing on such a sensitive issue.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference at Rideau Cottage June 25, 2021 in Ottawa, Canada. 
PHOTO BY SEAN KILPATRICK

These statements made by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could make it seem as if the rage Canadians have is understandable this time. If a minority group was attacked and the prime minister said that “That’s not the way to go” that would be completely unacceptable.

 “These acts of hatred targeting the diverse Christian community must end.” said Premier Jason Kenny of Alberta. When compared to the Prime Minister the Premier has been vocal and expressed his position throughout the attacks. We have yet to hear such a direct statement from the Prime Minister.

Members of religious organizations in Calgary believe that that the attacks are getting out of control, more needs to be done and that the silence is deafening when it comes to a response about the attacks from the Government.

The president of the Sikh Council of Calgary, Balihar Dhillon believes that to progress as a society we need to work together as a community to prevent these attacks and to build stronger relationships in the communities we live in.

“There should be more done from the government and law enforcement.” Dhillon Said.

The Calgary Police Service did not provide a comment as to whether there has been a decision to increase security and police presence during these troubling times.

“I think security should be increased, I can hire security guards to patrol 24/7 but is that realistic?” said Randy E. Spiegel of the Beth Tzedec Jewish Congregation in Calgary.

“I can see what the challenges are, where do you find the happy medium of good security and at the same time being protected.” said Spiegel.

Canadians should raise public awareness so we can protect our rights and values. Destroying public figures is wrong. Public opinion needs to change, and citizens should step up to have the discussions needed to protect all religious figures and buildings to uphold our Canadian values.

“I think the government had to step into increases security around these workplaces of worship, and to educate people and may raise awareness about the possible repercussions these will have.” Said Ibrahim Jadalowen, civic engagement coordinator with the Muslim Association of Canada

The government must ensure that all religious groups in Canada feel protected by setting an example to the nation. The Canadian Charter of Freedom and Rights states that all Canadians have the freedom of religion. By allowing these attacks to continue the government is setting a double standard when it comes to protecting the religious rights of Canadians.

“I think both sides of the argument are valid and need to be heard” Said Kyle Johnson Head pastor at Connect Church of Calgary.

“We should highlight certain parts to inform future generations, Many within the church community do not deserve to have their buildings vandalized, Many would like to work with the community to right their wrongs going forward” Said Johnson

If the government allows the attacks to continue it could potentially open the door for more vigilante attacks on other places of worship and historic Canadian churches that have an impact on many communities as key community centers and gathering locations.

The head of the BC rights commission resigned over a disturbing tweet in which she said to  “burn it all down”. A person in her position should not be advocating for the burning of churches and promoting this new style modern political activism which involves destroying property for social justice.

This new modern political activism risks damaging the very core of what makes this country a free and fair land.   

To some, the anger and frustration reached to a point where vandalizing or committing arson would be considered a justifiable action in response. This is a cry for attention by people who feel marginalized, so why are seemingly random and un-connected religious groups being targeted? This does not progress the discussion forward but rather presents new issues that divide us at the core. 

As time goes on the technology will get better, there will be more cemeteries uncovered as we have seen in the short span of this summer alone, there will be more tension but, at what point will Canadians demand an end to this frivolous destruction?

“As Canadians and members of the Catholic Church we feel this shame and guilt and are challenged to question if the church has done enough to right the wrong in its participation in an unjust system established by the government of Canada.” Said the Bishop of Calgary, William T. McGrattan In a statement issued through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary did not directly respond for comment when asked for a statement on their plans going forward to increase public awareness on the matter.

Thank-you for reading.

Anonymous Author

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