Calgary church considers leaving vandalism untouched to acknowledge residential school system

WATCH: Calgary police can’t confirm if the same suspects are behind 11 vandalized churches in the city but say they are investigating if the incidents were a co-ordinated effort. As Lauren Pullen reports, police are still working to identify suspects.

The minister of an inner-city Calgary church says he is in no rush to remove evidence of vandalism to the building as the city responds to recent revelations regarding Indigenous residential schools in Canada.

Grace Presbyterian in the southwest community of Connaught was one of at least 10 churches hit overnight Thursday. Vandals splashed red paint across the front doors.

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Minister Jake Van Pernis said he doesn’t consider it a hate crime, instead labeling it an act of protest and grief. He says the church is considering leaving it up in recognition of the lasting trauma of residential schools.

“In grief, there’s anger, frustration, trauma that we need to recognize,” he said Friday. “We need to work with the Indigenous community to start toward healing and work toward reconciliation in ways that are meaningful and good.”

Van Pernis said they’re still developing a full response to the vandalism, but says part of that has to be acknowledging the Presbyterian Church’s role and contributions in the residential school system in a meaningful way.

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Vandalism as well as numerous fires have occurred at churches across Canada following last month’s discovery of what’s believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.

More suspected graves at other former residential schools have since been found in Saskatchewan, as well as at the Lower Kootenay Band in B.C.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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