Alberta Grand Chief pleads with his people to leave churches alone

EDMONTON — Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey asked his members not to take “vigilante actions” against Catholic churches Wednesday night – although he says he understands the anger that might make someone want to do that.

Noskey released his emotional video on the same day a Catholic Church burned down in Morinville and 182 more unmarked grave sites were reported at a former residential school site in British Columbia.

“In your communities where you have these churches, we are asking you to refrain from vigilante actions against the church buildings. We are discouraging it. We don’t want to destroy evidence,” Noskey said.

Noskey started his video with a statement in Cree, and addressed his Nehiyaw (Cree people) and Dene citizens.

The Grand Chief promised that all 11 residential schools sites in his Northern Alberta territory would soon be searched with ground penetrating radar, as well as other day school and hospital sites where he believes remains might be buried.

“Our Chiefs, our leaders and our Elders, the survivors, they are working together. They are strategizing, they are planning that this is done right, that these locations are all identified.”

Noskey read from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – and said its definitions make it clear that Canada committed genocide.

“This was genocide on our people, this was to annihilate us. But we are still here. We still have a voice. These (sites) are crime scenes, there’s a lot of crime, crime against humanity, war crimes,” Noskey said.

RCMP called the Morinville church fire suspicious Wednesday, but it was not clear who set the blaze or why. Premier Jason Kenney called it a “hate-motivated crime,” and announced funding for more security at religious buildings.

Noskey didn’t comment on who may have started the Morinville fire either, but he did acknowledge the anger in his communities. He mentioned not harming churches on or near reserve lands, in particular.

“I even feel that way many times. I want to do something right now, right away. But not with a heart of anger or agitation. Because in that we will miss out on doing it right,” he clarified, asking his members for patience.

Noskey did not specify when the Alberta searches would start, but said they are being planned. The Alberta government has announced $8 million in funding to search for grave sites.

The Grand Chief also offered his people a number to call for more information, 1-888-TREATY8.

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