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Religious leader says church burnings ‘clear hate crimes’

“If some other place of worship was destroyed in this manner, I think there would be rightfully, significant public outcry. And all we’ve seen is a very tepid response from the Prime Minister, very limited responses from other leaders.”




The arson and vandalism of churches across Canada are hate crimes, according to Canada’s first ambassador for religious freedom.

Twenty-one churches have suffered arson, and another 32 have been vandalized since the announcement that undergrounds scans suggested 215 unmarked graves were at the residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.

Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennett, the Canadian ambassador for religious freedom from 2013-2016, believes if 50 mosques, synagogues, or temples had suffered attacks, the outcry from national leaders would have been louder.

“There has to be equity, if some other place of worship was destroyed in this manner, I think there would be rightfully, significant public outcry. And all we’ve seen is a very tepid response from the Prime Minister, very limited responses from other leaders,” Bennett told Western Standard.

“If this is the sort of weak response we have to expect then it says something about our common life and our ability to recognize hate when it manifests itself.”

Bennett, Director of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute, believes the attacks go beyond misdirected anger.

“It’s more than misplaced, it’s hate. One can appreciate people who are upset about the ongoing scandal of the residential schools…but you don’t express that through the destruction of places of worship. These are clear acts of hate. And all you’re doing is creating more victims, especially when some of these churches have been on Indigenous land, and where First Nations Christians worship. Facilitating this violence is reprehensible. And these are clear hate crimes,” said Bennett.

Bennett, a deacon in a Ukranian Greek-Catholic Church, said part of that misunderstanding includes efforts made by the Church already.

“A lot of people think that the Catholic Church is this sort of monolithic organization projected from Rome when in fact the Catholic understanding is that each diocese contains orders of the Catholic Church. So appropriately since the early 1990s, when we first began to address the residential school situation, bishops in those dioceses that had residential schools have issued apologies. The heads of religious orders that manned those religious schools have issued apologies. And so I think we need to look at what is on the record, examine and understand,” Bennett said.

Bennett is also a Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, DC., a think tank dedicated to promoting religious freedom worldwide. He is familiar with Coptic churches who were started in the First Century in Egypt by the biblical author Mark.

“Ukrainian Catholic churches, the Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey, have been vandalized or had fires and had arson. So is that just as a result of ignorance…or are we seeing sort of a broader degree of anti-Christian sentiments in the country?” he asked.

“That concerns me, especially if you look at the community of Coptic Orthodox Christians in this country, who, in recent decades have come here to escape horrible persecution in Egypt, then to come here and have their church in Surrey burned, again, creating new victims….

“And that sort of violence that is so insensitive to those communities where we’re talking about Coptic Orthodox Christians or Indigenous Christians – that’s what really frustrates me and worries me. And so I hope we can see a much stronger condemnation of these actions coming from our political leaders.”

Bennett has found some consolation in indigenous leaders who have universally condemned the attacks.

“Those particular voices are critical because again, a significant proportion of First Nations, Metis and Inuit in this country are Christians. These are their churches in many cases, so it’s right and just that First Nations leaders should be some of the strongest critics of these burnings,” he said.

Bennett said the public also needs a more nuanced understanding of the apparent graves.

“These unmarked graves are now currently unmarked. They might have been marked in an earlier time with wooden crosses that maybe have deteriorated. We’re not sure. So there’s a lot of unanswered questions as to the nature of these graves, and how did these children die. And the Truth and Reconciliation report addresses this in considerable detail,” Bennett said.

“The presence of these graves was known and has been accounted for…We have to make sure that when we’re looking at the situation with these graves, we have all the facts.”

Lee Harding is a Saskatchewan-based correspondent for Western Standard.

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  1. Nathalie Hilton-O'Brien

    August 3, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    Finally, someone who says it like it is…

  2. Nathalie Hilton-O'Brien

    August 3, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    Are for real, Man! This is not a genocide! The Holocaust was genocide. You are seriously disturbed if you equate what happened in residential schools with the Holocaust. Get educated and informed before you make blanket statements like this one, that you know nothing about, except from the media who’s goal is to eradicate religion altogether.

  3. Left Coast

    August 3, 2021 at 9:08 am

    @ Leon

    You are seriously f’ed in the head man . . . just like our Justin!

    The report states at least 3,213 children were reported to have died at the 150 residential schools that operated over the roughly 140-year history.

    In 1906, Dr. Peter Bryce, the chief medical officer for Indian Affairs, wrote that “the Indian population of Canada has a mortality rate of more than double that of the whole population, and in some provinces more than three times.”

    In 1909, Bryce and a colleague examined 243 students at seven schools in southern Alberta. Bryce found a “marked” presence of tuberculosis among all age groups. In some schools, “there was not a child that showed a normal temperature” and “in no single instance in any school where a young child was found awaiting admission, did it not show signs of tuberculosis.” In other words, they brought the disease to school.

    The Spanish Flu was especially devastating. Hamilton writes that in 1918, only two people among the children and staff did not catch it at the school at Fort St. John, B.C., where 78 died. Hamilton quotes the diary of Father Joseph Allard who was the school principal who also conducted funeral services.

    “An anthropologist’s report authorized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggests some of the hundreds of graves found at residential grave sites are likely due to people killed by rampant disease.”

    Why confuse yourself with FACTS . . . 1000s of kids got educated and went on to have productive lives!

  4. John Lankers

    August 2, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    Interesting that no federal government buildings are being burned to the ground since the federal government is ultimately responsible….

  5. Leon

    August 2, 2021 at 5:11 pm

    Mosques and Synagogues weren’t systematically kidnapping, torturing, and mass murdering children on this land in an act of genocide. Churches were.

  6. berta baby

    August 2, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    On point, good for this guy to speak out it is totally hate crimes.

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Canada-Europe take action over COVID variant Omicron

“Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of concern reinforces the need for caution,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.




With the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC) named Omicron in South Africa, the Canadian government is taking steps to limit the risk to Canadians.

Travellers arriving from countries of concern within the last 14 days will be required to quarantine pending negative COVID-19 tests. Countries of concern include South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

On Friday, Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the federal government will impose five measures in an effort to limit its spread in Canada.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam took to Twitter on Saturday to share her concerns over the VOC.

“Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of concern reinforces the need for caution,” wrote Tam.

The WHO has labelled Omicron as a variant of concern due to its high number of mutations and reports that early evidence suggests it could be more infectious than other variants.

Meanwhile, during a news conference on Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK will take “targeted and precautionary measures” after two people tested positive for the Omicron variant.

One case was identified in Brentwood, a town in southeastern England while the other case was located in the central city of Nottingham. Both individuals are linked and had travelled from southern Africa. The two individuals are self-isolating along with their households and authorities are working on contact tracing.

Johnson confirmed travellers arriving in England will be required to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative test result is provided. Those that test positive for the new variant will have to self-isolate, along with any of their close contacts, for 10 days regardless of vaccine status.

He also said masks will be required in shops and other public spaces and indicated they will “boost the booster campaign.”

“Right now this is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding and the spread of this new variant and to maximize our defences,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the new rules will be reviewed in three weeks when scientists know more about the variant.

On Friday, the British government added Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to the country’s travel red list. By Saturday, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia were also added to the list.

Other countries are adding restrictions on travellers coming from various southern African countries including the US, Japan, Brazil, and Australia while cases have also been reported in Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong.

Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and the Czech Republic have also reported suspected cases related to travellers arriving from South Africa.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard

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Road closures as British Columbians brace for more rain

Closures will impact Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 99 on Saturday.




As BC braces for additional rain, the government has ‘proactively’ closed a number of highways for travel.

“We are actively responding, monitoring and assessing the many highway closures due to flooding and will continue to do so as we work with local and emergency service partners,” said the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“Safety is our top priority while we deal with a rapidly changing and difficult situation.”

Closures will impact Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 99 on Saturday. The ministry said the time and duration of the closures will be weather-dependent.

“The highway infrastructure in these areas is extremely vulnerable following recent storms, and more heavy rain in the forecast poses an additional risk,” said the ministry in a press release.

“The closures of these three highways will be re-evaluated on Sunday morning, with the highways reopened when it is safe to do so.”

The release said Highway 1 will be closed between Popkum and Hope on Saturday afternoon as BC Hydro plans a reservoir release, “crucial to protect the Jones Lake Reservoir, which is also being affected by the heavy rains.”

The release explains the reservoir release will discharge water towards areas of Highway 1 that were affected during the November 14 storm.  

“This additional flow – combined with the increased precipitation and already high stream flows – poses a risk of impact to Highway 1 in the Laidlaw area.”

The ministry is bracing for further damage to Highway 1 in this area and said the reopening time cannot be determined at this stage but will be assessed by crews “when it is safe to do so.”

Highway 7 between Mission and Hope remains open with travel restrictions in place. Essential purposes for travel are defined in the travel restrictions order through the Emergency Program Act

Weather statements are in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, Squamish to Whistler and the Sunshine Coast into next week. Storms are expected to bring more rain which has resulted in high streamflow advisories for all regions of the coast by the River Forecast Centre.

Ongoing road and travel updates are available on the ministry’s website.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard

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Bill to aid jurors traumatized by testimony up for vote … again

Bill C-206 would amend a 1972 secrecy law to permit jurors to disclose confidential details of deliberations for the purpose of “medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling.”




For the third time in three years, legislators will attempt to pass an aid bill for jurors traumatized by graphic testimony in criminal courts.

“When we ask citizens to be a juror we don’t ask them to be a victim,” said Quebec Senator and bill sponsor Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu.

“There is no excuse not to adopt that bill.” 

Bill C-206 would amend a 1972 secrecy law to permit jurors to disclose confidential details of deliberations for the purpose of “medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling,” said Blacklock’s Reporter.

Two identical bills, S-207 and C-417, lapsed in the last two Parliaments.

“That kind of bill should be a government bill, not a private bill,” said Boisvenu.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of private interest. It’s a matter of national interest.”

In 2017, the Commons justice committee recommended the Criminal Code amendment after hearing testimony from former jurors who said they quit jobs, suffered marriage breakdown and were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being compelled to watch crime scene videos and hear testimony from coroners.

“Everyone’s mental health matters,” Ontario Senator Lucie Moncion said Thursday.

“Yet from a legal point of view, jurors are part of a special category of people who are denied complete health care. The secrecy rule prohibits a juror from disclosing information related to deliberations to anyone including a health care professional. This needs to change.”

Moncion was a juror in a 1989 murder trial and said the experience left her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“They show you the whole autopsy,” said Moncion.

“It was very difficult. This is still very difficult for me.”

Alberta Conservative MP Michael Cooper, a member of the 2017 Commons justice committee that recommended reforms, said delays were inexcusable.

“It should have been a no-brainer for the government to have brought this bill forward,” said Cooper indicating the bill has been “studied thoroughly.”

“There have literally been no arguments tendered against this piece of legislation.”

Cooper, in 2019, sponsored a similar bill – C-417 – that lapsed. MPs at the time noted U.S. jurors were free to discuss their experience with friends, family, psychiatrists or media.

“In the United States once a trial is over jurors are generally free to discuss the events of the trial and jury deliberations unless a specific court order bars them from doing so,” said Ontario Liberal MP Arif Virani, then-parliamentary secretary for justice.

“What that means is that jurors in the United States can talk with nearly anyone about juror deliberations including a talk show host on national television or across the Internet. This approach, which offers limited protection for juror privacy, is significantly different from the Canadian model.”

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