As the month of July draws to a close, arson and vandalism, mostly against Catholic churches, continue persisting throughout Canada.
According to America Magazine, the most recent occurrence happened on July 19, when firefighters were sent to the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey, British Columbia, after reports of a fire at around 3:30 a.m. The church was totally wrecked when the fire broke out.
Church fires have been raging throughout Canada since the early morning hours of June 21, which was National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. By the middle of July, more than a dozen churches in Canada had been reported damaged or destroyed by fire. Several of these churches are over a century old.
Since the Kamloops incident, scores of suspected arson fires or major acts of vandalism have occurred at churches throughout Canada, according to Canadian news outlets.
The burning and vandalizing of church buildings came only days after a report confirmed the burial locations of at least 215 bodies at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. More unmarked graves have also been discovered at numerous former Indigenous children's residential schools.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stated there are no plans to create a national task force to probe the damage and suspected arson attacks on Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestant churches in Alberta, BC, Calgary, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia.
At least eight Roman Catholic and Anglican churches have burned in British Columbia, but police have no suspects and won't say if they believe the crimes are linked to recent discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential schools.
According to Staff Sgt. Shoihet, in an email response to America magazine, "our officers have been working closely with indigenous leaders and local church administration to discuss possible options with respect to crime prevention."
She noted that the majority of churches destroyed by suspected arson fires were in small, rural neighborhoods. At least one of the churches was vacant when the fire destroyed the structure.
"Investigators are sharing information," she said. "However, it is too early to say that the fires in different parts of our province are linked to a particular group or person, or to each other. Each investigation is being conducted by the police of jurisdiction but being monitored provincially."
Despite press reports linking church fires to indigenous peoples' outrage at the finding of unmarked graves of indigenous children, the fires have been denounced by several First Nations community leaders.
As reported by Global News on June 27, Chief Clarence Louie of the Okanagan Indian Band, who also serves as tribal chair and spokesperson for the Okanagan Nation Alliance, believes the fires were deliberately started.
"Obviously, it's the same group of people. Why did they do it under the cover of darkness? Because it's a criminal act and they are criminal," he told Global News.
In a statement on June 30, Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said that the Indigenous way is not about destroying things but rather about establishing connections and working together.
The Canadian government publicly apologized for the heinous legacy of residential schools, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Pope Francis to make official apologies as well.