Home Us bishops Don’t ignore spike in anti-Catholic hate crimes in Canada, says watchdog

Don’t ignore spike in anti-Catholic hate crimes in Canada, says watchdog


In November 2021, the league noted a “surge” in attacks on churches following initial reports from May 2021 of possible unmarked graves on the property of former residential schools for Indigenous Canadians, which were run by Catholic and Protestant entities under the supervision of the federal government. government.

Preliminary claims about the graves are based on analysis of ground penetrating radar results and have yet to be confirmed by exhumation and other analysis. It is also possible that the graves were from community cemeteries and include the remains of non-students and non-indigenous people from the area, including boarding school staff and their families.

Sarah Beaulieu, the anthropologist who conducted the first radar tests near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, in July 2021 called the 215 radar signatures “probable burials” and “targets of interest.” The use of ground detection radar at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan reportedly found 751 graves.

News reports incorrectly described possible graves as “mass graves” and often failed to mention that the finds had not been confirmed. The reports appeared to have inspired church burnings and other acts of vandalism.

“There is no indication that these attacks were carried out by indigenous peoples and indigenous leaders were quick to condemn these acts of violence,” the Catholic Civil Rights League said in November. “Indeed, there were churches burned on indigenous lands and those serving indigenous Catholic communities.”

For decades, Catholic leaders, Indigenous Canadians and others have sought to address the legacy of the historical involvement of Catholic organizations and institutions in residential schools, which sought to forcibly assimilate Indigenous Canadians.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final report on residential schools in 2015 said the system was part of a policy of “cultural genocide.”

Some schools date from the 1870s. Attendance was generally compulsory and children were often taken away from their families. The federal government provided poor oversight and few resources, while the schools themselves provided substandard education and neglectful housing and care for their boarding students.

An estimated 4,100 to 6,000 students have died from disease, injury, neglect or abuse over the decades. Tuberculosis was a major cause of death, as was the flu. Children died disproportionately from disease compared to non-Indigenous Canadians.

Pope Francis apologized for abuses in residential schools during his visit to Canada last month.

Catholic leaders in other countries have expressed concern over an increase in crimes against churches.

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has counted at least 157 criminal incidents at Catholic churches in 37 states and the District of Columbia since May 2020. These include arson, beheading of statues, vandalism with anti-Catholic language and the defacing of tombstones. Several of the incidents of vandalism in the United States referenced the residential school controversy in Canada.

In February 2022, French authorities said provisional figures indicated that more than 800 anti-Christian incidents had been reported in the country in the previous year. The French Interior Ministry recorded 996 anti-Christian acts in 2019, an average of 2.7 per day.

In France, vandalism and attacks on Christian churches often seem to lack any organized coordination or shared ideological motives. Many perpetrators appear to be disillusioned young people, people with psychological disorders or the homeless. Religious sites also suffer from the abandonment and lack of maintenance on the part of the public authorities, owners of French religious buildings under a law of 1905.

Nonetheless, there have been several high-profile terrorist incidents, including the 2016 murder of Father Jacques Hamel while celebrating mass in a Normandy church. His attackers were men aligned with the Islamic State.