WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
The doors of a Roman Catholic cathedral in downtown Saskatoon were splattered with paint Thursday afternoon after the discovery hundreds of unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School.
Video of the event posted to social media showed a woman painting and splattering red paint on the door and the sign of St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral.
Photos of the aftermath show the words “We Were Children” scrawled on the church door.
The Catholic Church has been criticized for its role in the residential school system, especially for its reluctance to provide records relating to burial grounds.
On Thursday, the Cowessess First Nation announced the preliminary discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the former residential school. The announcement caused shock and outrage across the country.
The finding comes after another discovery at the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C. which announced the discovery of a burial site adjacent to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Preliminary findings indicate the site contains the remains of 215 children.
Posts on social media say the woman responsible for painting the church was approached by police and remained calm through the incident.
By Friday morning, the paint had been removed and a security guard had been posted outside the church.
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As of early Friday morning, neither St Paul’s Co-Cathedral or the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon had issued a statement on the incident.
On Thursday, the Catholic Bishops of Saskatchewan addressed the Cowessess discovery, saying that the experience was “heartbreaking and devastating,” especially for residential school survivors.
The statement went on to say the Bishops support reconciliation and committed themselves to stand by Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419. A Saskatchewan-based line is now available by calling 306-522-7494.