Burning churches is 'not the Dene way,' says Dene Nation after Yellowknife fire

·3 min read
An early morning fire July 1 at the St. Patrick Co-Cathedral in Yellowknife left several pews charred. RCMP have called the fire suspicious.  (John Van Dusen/CBC - image credit)
An early morning fire July 1 at the St. Patrick Co-Cathedral in Yellowknife left several pews charred. RCMP have called the fire suspicious. (John Van Dusen/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains information some readers may find distressing.

The Dene Nation is calling for forgiveness and love — and also accountability — in response to a suspicious fire at the Catholic church in Yellowknife.

"We say to those responsible for the recent fire at St. Patrick's Church, 'this is not the Dene way,'" reads a press release issued Friday afternoon.

"We call upon you to step away from the path of anger and violence. We ask you to join with us to seek accountability peacefully and respect the wishes of our elders."

The fire broke out at the St. Patrick Co-Cathedral catholic church in Yellowknife shortly after midnight Thursday. Several pews were charred and repairs to the building will be necessary.

RCMP called the fire suspicious.

The fire followed a string of church fires in other parts of Canada, which themselves follow devastating revelations of what are believed to be unmarked graves of children near former residential schools.

Elsewhere in Canada, Indigenous leaders have called on Catholics to stay home on Sunday in an effort to urge the church to pay in full the $25 million the church promised to residential school survivors. So far, the church has paid only $4 million, saying they gave their "best effort" to raise the money.

The Dene Nation is also seeking action from the church.

"The dark chapter of residential schools in Canada will never be history until the searches are complete," said the Dene Nation.

"The Church and Canada must still be held accountable. The Churches and the Pope must acknowledge their role and apologize to our children's families and communities. The Pope must commit the Churches to work with Canada and Indigenous governments to identify every child."

But, the Dene Nation said, "violence is not the way to deal with injustice."

"Every child deserves to rest in peace and for our families and communities to have closure."

Support is available for anyone affected by the effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

The NWT Help Line offers free support to residents of the Northwest Territories, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is 100 per cent free and confidential. The NWT Help Line also has an option for follow-up calls. Residents can call the help line at 1-800-661-0844.

In Nunavut, the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-265-3333. People are invited to call for any reason.

In Yukon, mental health services are available to those in both Whitehorse and in rural Yukon communities through Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services. Yukoners can schedule Rapid Access Counselling supports in Whitehorse and all MWSU community hubs by calling 1-867-456-3838.

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