Photo by David von Diemar on Unsplash

Vancouver police set sights on church vandals

  • July 28, 2021

VANCOUVER -- As Vancouver Police investigate a “dramatic” increase in mischief and vandalism at churches and church properties, they’re concerned an escalation in violence could lead to more serious damage or injury.

“There is a very real possibility that if these incidents continue and escalate that somebody could be seriously hurt,” police spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison said at a press conference July 22.

Police are looking into 13 church-related incidents in the City of Vancouver since June 2, including rocks thrown through windows, buildings defaced with paint, and threats to set fire to buildings.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver issued a statement condemning the attacks on churches and saying it looks forward to “continuing on the peaceful path towards reconciliation.”

Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller also sent a message of support to Canada’s Coptic Orthodox bishop after the destruction of a church in Surrey, B.C., described as a “haven” for new Canadians and ancient holy rites.

The Surrey Coptic Orthodox church was destroyed by fire July 19 in the most destructive attack on a church in Metro Vancouver.

Addison said detectives from the police property crimes section are gathering evidence against the church vandalism and are in collaboration with the hate crimes and criminal intelligence units and other police departments.

Addison called on the public to “be proactive” and report anything unusual at church properties, adding there have been incidents of suspicious activity where police were not immediately notified.

Although there have been no injuries, police are “worried there could be a contagion effect (as) people become emboldened and engage in more risky activity,” Addison said.

He noted some churches, such as those offering shelter services, have people in them 24 hours a day. “There is a very real possibility that if these incidents continue and escalate that somebody could be seriously hurt.”

The churches represent various denominations, including Catholic, but police are not identifying them for security reasons.

Asked about possible motives, Addison said the increase in incidents “certainly correlates with the discovery of the unmarked graves at residential schools throughout British Columbia and other parts of Canada.”

Although the news about the schools has been emotional and traumatic, he said “there are better ways to express your anger and your frustration and express your views,” such as peaceful protest or donating to residential school survivor charities.

“People may think they’re doing this for a noble cause; it’s not for a noble cause, it’s affecting people and it’s criminal.”

A Globe and Mail reporter asked Addison about comments from high-profile people who appear to support the burning of churches, saying she spoke with someone yesterday who remarked, “burn them all, it doesn’t matter, those are just buildings.”

Addison said “statements that embolden and empower vandals are not helpful; that kind of rhetoric is dangerous.”

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