Toronto, ON June 22, 2021 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) laments the loss of two century old Catholic churches in the Okanagan region of British Colombia, destroyed by suspected arson in the early morning of June 21.
The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) has been working on a searchable database of acts of vandalism against Catholic churches in Canada, with a launch date forthcoming. Two more entries now need to be added.
Sacred Heart Church on Penticton Indian Band territory was discovered in flames at approximately 1 am, and at 3 am St. Gregory’s on Osoyoos Indian Band land was also discovered burning. Although an investigation is pending, a Globe and Mail report quotes a local fire chief in confirming that liquid accelerants were found at the St. Gregory’s fire.
Although arson has not been confirmed in the demise of Sacred Heart and St. Gregory’s and a motive not established, the destruction of both churches coincides with the June 21 observance of National Indigenous People’s Day and the recent focus on the discovery of a grave site at the Kamloops Indian Residential school, also in British Columbia where 215 indigenous children are assumed to be buried.
The CCRL decries the destruction of these two churches as acts of violence against religion and people of faith. The indigenous peoples of the Okanagan valley must now suffer further in having lost two churches. Sacred Heart, in particular, was a mission parish with weekly Mass.
Indigenous people in Canada continue to self-identify as Christian, the majority of these Catholic. According to the 2011 National Household Survey of Statistics Canada, of 1,400,685 persons who self-identified as Aboriginal in private households, 889,315, or 63 percent identified as Christian. Of these, over 500,000 identified as Roman Catholic.
As reported in the Globe and Mail, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, himself leader of the Penticton nation for 14 years until 2008 said that the Penticton Band was “devastated” by the loss of the church, “There was a particular moment when the structure was failing that the church bell fell from the tower…when it hit the ground there was a single ring, and that triggered people and they just started crying.”
Join the CCRL in continuing to pray for reconciliation and peace and for a Canada in which people of faith may continue to thrive in their communities, for themselves, and in contribution to our society and our nation.
We appeal to any of you not financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, who may wish to accomplish more almsgiving by sending a donation to the CCRL by clicking here or by mailing a cheque to the CCRL at 2305 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M6S 1P1, or by calling the office at (416) 466-8244 or 1-844-722-CCRL.
About the CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
To donate to the CCRL, please click here.
For further information:
Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
CCRL Executive Director