BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) executive director Harsha Walia has come under fire for urging the public to "burn" more churches down in response to a number of recent arson cases occurring on churches that stand on Indigenous land.
In the last two months, four churches in western Canada have been destroyed by fires after the discovery of unmarked graves in church-run schools for indigenous children who were believed to be forced to convert to Christianity and were assimilated.
According to The Guardian, St Ann's Church on Upper Similkameen Indian Band land, and the Chopaka Church in the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, which were both built from wood and were over a hundred years old, were burned to the ground.
The arson cases came after Sacred Heart church in the Penticton Indian Band and the St. Gregory's church in the Osoyoos Indian Band, also both wooden churches that were built more than 100 years ago, were burned to the ground.
Canada was rocked with reports of almost a thousand unmarked graves in boarding schools for Indigenous children. The Catholic Church came under fire for its role in the assimilation of the children, with some going to extremes and burning down churches.
Leaders of the Lower Similkameen called for peace, saying, "This is a symptom of the intergenerational trauma our survivors and intergenerational descendants are experiencing, there are supports to help deal with these emotions in a more healing way."
But the BCCLA leader appears to be pushing for these extreme measures to hold the church accountable for its history. According to the Western Standard, Walia responded to news reports about the churches being burned out in a tweet that read, "Burn it all down."
The backlash against Walia was immediate, with Twitter users accusing her of "inciting violence and hate." Ironically, Walia leads an organization which according to Global News "fights for civil liberties and human rights." She is also known as a "long-time advocate for migrant justice, Indigenous rights, equality and economic justice."
Yet, she appeared to be going to the extreme to hold churches accountable for their mistakes. In Canada, attacks on religious buildings are considered a hate crime.
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver CEO Ezra S. Shanken took to Twitter to decry Walia's statement, saying that her "incredible lack of judgement" must be called out. He wrote, "Being a leader is not about burning things down but working toward building things up. I am here to work with our first nations in a constructive non-violent way. That is #reconciliation."
Walia locked her Twitter account after her chilling tweet made the rounds. She allegedly offered an explanation to her followers, saying that she while she does not romanticize the torching of churches across Canada, she does empathize with the anger "that can lead to different actions in moments of upheaval."
"It's totally ridiculous to suggest I am actively calling for arson," Walia tweeted, as per Global News. "And yes, I do think deadly genocidal colonialism locally and globally needs to collapse."