July 2, 2021

-Western Standard


Churches in the West – and increasingly across Canada – are on fire.

A spree of arson and other acts of destruction have been occurring against Christian churches, focused mostly on Indigenous Catholic congregations. The acts range from petty vandalism to lighting fires in or around the churches, destroying many.

As of publication, there have been almost 23 attacks against churches – including at least five completely destroyed by fires, at least three damaged by fires, and more than 15 vandalized to varying degrees.

The rash of attacks comes on the heels of several discoveries of mass unmarked graves at former residential schools, and several activists openly calling for the burning of churches.

Most RCMP units investigating the fires have been hesitant to officially link the discovery of the gravesites with the attacks, but have labelled the fires and other attacks as “suspicious.”

The most destructive fires have mostly been occurring across Western Canada, but there have been other minor fires and acts of destruction towards Christian in the East.

The attacks were condemned by federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not condemn the attacks for several days until asked about them by reporters on Wednesday June 30 – a full week after some of the first fires began on June 21.

Indigenous leaders have condemned the attacks and called for more peaceful approaches to process the strong feelings of rage, frustration, and pain brought on by the recent discoveries of the unmarked graves.

“To burn things is not our way,” said Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “Our way is to build relationships and come together.”

The most damaging attacks were in Alberta and British Columbia. These Western provinces saw five separate churches set ablaze and destroyed.

St. Ann’s Catholic Church: Princeton, BC

  • 3:52 am June 26 Princeton RCMP received a call saying the church was on fire
  • The church was destroyed

Chopaka Church: Keremeos, BC

  • 4:45 am Keremeos RCMP got a call that the church was in flames
  • The church was destroyed

L’église de Saint-Jean-Baptiste: Morinville, AB

  • Historic church, more than a century old, of significant importance to Alberta’s Francophone community
  • The church was destroyed

Sacred Heart Church: Indigenous band lands in Penticton, BC

  • Built in 1911
  • RCMP spotted the fire while on patrol at 1:22 am
  • The church was destroyed

St Gregory’s Church: Osoyoos Indigenous Band Land near Oliver, BC

  • Built in 1910
  • Oliver RCMP received a tip at 3:10 am that the church was on fire
  • The church was destroyed

In all cases, the RCMP have stated that the fires are “suspicious”. Oliver RCMP said they are “sensitive to the recent events, but won’t speculate on a motive.”

A number of churches were also set on fire, but not destroyed.

Siksika First Nation Catholic ChurchSiksika First Nation 60 km east of Calgary, AB

  • RCMP responded to a tip at 12:30 am on Monday June 28 about a structural fire on Map 8 of the Siksika Nation
  • Siksika Fire Department put out the fire before any significant structural damage could be caused to the structure
  • The church was empty at the time, no one was injured as a result of the fire

Siksika Anglican Church: Gleichen, AB

St Kateri Tekakwitha Church: Sipekne’katik First Nation 64 km north of Halifax, NS

  • Set on fire at 4:20 am June 30 but sustain only minimal damage