Attacks on Churches


Manitoba has for awhile become the centre of attention around Canada and even the world as a result of rebellion by indigenous people and their supporters. Some of those rebels toppled monuments on the grounds of the Manitoba legislatures. In other places the rebels even attacked or burned churches.

Some Manitobans have been quick to denounce the “violent” rebels and have demanded that they be held accountable.

I do not endorse the destruction or desecration of churches, by anyone, even indigenous rebels. It is not justified in a country that is meaningfully democratic, even one as far from a perfect democracy as that of Canada. But this does not end the issue of indigenous assaults on Christian churches. If you leave it at that it is like saying Jewish people who violently resisted their destruction by Nazis in Germany and Europe during the Second World War were wrong if they employed violent means to defend themselves.  The Jews had a right to rebel. I would submit, they even had the right to resist with violence.

Similarly, American rebels who resisted the imposition of taxes on the American colonies by England were entitled to resist by dumping tea in Boston Harbour, even though that entailed the destruction of private property.

In both case, tyrannical power brought about violence resistance. Those who imposed the tyranny were more at fault than the violent resisters. I see indigenous rebels more like them than criminals.

This reminds me as well of current attitudes among many conservatives of many stripes, where  they see clearly the damage to property caused by rebels such as members of Black Lives Matter or Antifa, but cannot see the injustice against which they are rebelling, even though it is usually much more serious.

Defenders of the status quo often don’t see the injustice because that is how privilege works. Privilege disguises injustice as just deserts.

As well, we must remember that Christian churches are not innocents here.  Even though some of them have apologized, while others did not, they were a vital part of the oppression of indigenous people and in particular indigenous children during the 19th and 20th centuries. They were not innocent bystanders. They were actors directly involved in the oppression.

The federal government with its Christian church partners tried to destroy indigenous culture, indigenous religion, and indigenous children. It came close to doing that. It is hardly surprising that indigenous descendants of residential school students and their allies have a lot of distrust and animosity to both of those institutions. We can hardly be surprised either by the lack of action on the 94 calls for action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  The actions of indigenous rebels must be understood in this context.

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