The Edmonton Police Service is investigating the vandalization of a statue of a former pope located outside a Catholic church in the north central part of the city.
A woman is suspected of painting a statue of Pope John Paul II, which sits outside the Holy Rosary Catholic Church on the corner of 114 Avenue and 106 Street, police said in a Sunday news release.
The base of the statue had dozens of red-painted hand prints and the former pope's name was smeared with red paint.
The EPS do not currently have an age or description of the suspect, but say the incident occurred shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday.
The service's hate crimes and violent extremism unit has been notified of the vandalism, but the investigation file will remain with the EPS until the hate crimes unit has been able to properly assess the situation, police said.
There are no further details available at this time, they added.
Parishioners attending Polish masses Sunday were shocked when they saw the statue, said Andrzej Makarewicz, first vice president of the Canadian Polish Congress Alberta Society.
"This is a hate crime," he said, adding that the vandalization hurts the community.
Makarewicz was especially disturbed by security footage captured by the church that showed at least two cars whose drivers witnessed the vandalization but did nothing.
Since the remains of 215 children were found on a former residential site near Kamloops, B.C., a month ago, several churches throughout Canada have been vandalized with red paint. Some statues of Christian leaders and figures who played roles in Canada's colonial past have been painted red or torn down by demonstrators.
The police-reported incident in Edmonton Saturday night comes days after 751 unmarked graves were found near the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.