Fire damage is seen to Blessed Sacrament Parish in downtown Regina, SK. A suspected arsonist attacked the parish Feb. 9, 2024.Photo courtesy ArchdiocesePhoto courtesy Fr. James Hentges of Grouard-McLennan

MPs choose not to condemn church fires

A call to condemn the most recent arson attack on a Christian church — Feb. 9 at Blessed Sacrament Church in downtown Regina — failed to gain unanimous approval in the House of Commons.

On Feb. 12, Conservative MP Corey Tochor called for unanimous consent to condemn the arson at Blessed Sacrament. Members of the Liberal-NDP governing coalition responded with “no.” Speaker of the House of Commons Greg Fergus quickly stated, “there is no unanimous consent.”

The fire is recognized as the 100th Canadian Christian church desecrated or destroyed by fire or vandalism since the unproven discovery in May 2021 of unmarked graves near a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

During question period, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis and NDP MP Leah Gazan went back and forth during debate on Bill C-29, which calls for establishing a national council for reconciliation. The former tried to convince the latter to condemn attacks on churches in Indigenous communities specifically.

“Many churches in Indigenous communities, sacred spaces for Indigenous Christians, steeped in personal and familial traditions and sometimes containing important community records, have been vandalized or burned down,” said Genuis. “These acts of arson are not just damaging to property; they are also very dangerous to human life. I have noticed that we have not heard anything from the NDP on these incidents.”

Gazan hinted that Genuis was seeking a racist dog whistle for an answer.

“I am not sure who is burning the churches and why the member is relating it to this speech, but is he insinuating that it is Indigenous people?” said Gazan. “Does he have proof of that? If he does not, I would say that is a stereotype. I would also call that racist. I would first ask the member if he had proof, and then I would be willing to discuss it because without knowing what the answer is, it is really hard for me to answer what the root of that issue is.”

Genuis rejected the claim that he was assuming or suggesting who was behind the fires. He reiterated, “I am concerned not only about how those attacks on churches undermine religious freedom but also about how they are an aspect of the destruction of the cultural property of those Indigenous communities.” He again called upon Gazan to denounce these vile acts.

“I do not know what the motive was or who burned down the churches,” Gazan responded. “Second, because I do not know that, I cannot call it anti-Indigenous violence. I have not heard him debate anti-Indigenous violence when he talks about residential school denialism. I know what the motivation is for that. I know where it is coming from. They are very public about it.”

The Catholic Register attempted to uncover some answers as to why the NDP and Liberals refuse to condemn the ongoing desecration of Christian churches. Comment was sought directly from the Liberal Party of Canada, the NDP and Gazan, but none responded.

Genuis said the caginess of the Liberals and NDP speaks volumes.

“When it comes to attacks on churches, there is clearly a kind of conspiracy of silence from the NDP-Liberal coalition,” said Genuis. “They don’t come out and publicly condone these attacks, but they are completely silent about them while they are vocal in criticizing attacks on other communities. It is clearly a choice. It is not by accident — and it is shameful.”

The Liberals have been quick to condemn vandalism on Islamic places of worship. Following the discovery of hate-motivated graffiti found on the outside of the Islamic Centre of Cambridge on Feb. 12, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on X that “the vandalism at the Islamic Centre of Cambridge — and the rise in Islamophobia across the country — is alarming, abhorrent and unacceptable. I strongly condemn this incident and stand with Muslim communities against such hate. We must confront and combat Islamophobia together.”

As of Feb. 19, Trudeau has not once acknowledged the arson at Blessed Sacrament Parish. When the fires at churches first became an issue in 2021, Trudeau at one point said that he understood why people were torching Christian churches.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also shared a statement of solidarity following the vandalism in Cambridge. He said, “This is horrifying. The hate-motivated graffiti found at the Islamic Centre of Cambridge this week is unacceptable. The rise in Islamophobia is deeply troubling — it must be confronted at every instance. Hate has no place anywhere in our country.”

And just like Trudeau, Singh has been radio silent on the burning of the Catholic church.

“If you could get the answer to that… I know I’ve been trying,” said Tochor. “There is no MP, as you saw in the clip earlier, from the Liberals or NDP who has any interest in condemning these acts of vandalism.”

Meanwhile, one week after a masked perpetrator — caught on security camera — ignited the fire outside Blessed Sacrament Parish, 31-year-old Jordan Willet was arrested and charged with arson with disregard for human life, disguise with intent and two counts of failing to comply with a probation order. He appeared in court for the first time on Feb. 20.

Scrubbers are working to remove the smoke and pollutant damage within the 140-year-old church. Liturgical services will only resume when the air quality is deemed safe enough for parishioners.


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