Churches targeted for other reasons?
Fifty-seven churches in Canada have been damaged or burned to the ground. The generally acknowledged reason for this is a reaction to the recent discoveries in the graveyards of former residential schools. However, there is another element here that needs to be examined. St. George’s Coptic church in Surrey was burned to the ground. The Copts had nothing to do with the residential school system, so why was this church destroyed?
It may be time to admit that there is more to this than we think. The destruction of these churches, many not directly involved in the residential school system, indicates a new and dangerous form of bigotry. The residential school discoveries have unleashed strong feelings. Fair enough, but it is hard to see how the vandalizing and burning of these churches is either justifiable or acceptable. Even less acceptable is the weak reaction of our elected officials.
Is it now okay for us to say, as some leading Canadian politicians have, including our prime minister, that the destruction of these churches is “understandable?” There is nothing “understandable” about destroying a public monument, historic building or place of worship. There are also two additional points to consider: first, the churches destroyed often served the indigenous communities they were in, and, second, if there had been 57 synagogues, temples or mosques burned to the ground the outcry would have been deafening. Canada has recently been called the “Church burning capital of the western world.” It is not a title any of us should take pride in.