News reports about the graves appeared to motivate several church burnings and dozens of vandalism attacks—attacks several indigenous leaders themselves denounced as counterproductive.
There are other calls to end tax exemptions for the Catholic Church.
Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell has said he will introduce a motion to end land tax exemptions to all churches in his city, the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, whose population is about 7,700. He said he has the support of many Inuit people but some churchgoers and clergy oppose the move.
“Tax exemptions, as a whole, are supposed to be for groups that do the community good. It’s very clear that the Catholic church hasn’t done the community any good,” Bell told Nunatsiaq News in June.
“We’re not retaliating against them,” he said, contending that the Church has “literally killed thousands of children.”
He said that the move could help pressure the Church to release records and to apologize. He said his measure would target all churches, not just Catholic churches.
Father Daniel Perreault, a priest at Iqaluit’s Our Lady of Assumption Roman Catholic Church said in a July 4 message that his church “stands in solidarity with the Native peoples of Canada.”
The local diocese was the first to apologize to residential school survivors in 1996, and again in 2014, the priest said.
He said “it is sad that the mayor of our community chooses to target the churches of Iqaluit by proposing to cancel the property tax exemption provisions.”
“Placing an additional financial burden on the parish does not harm the Canadian or world-wide Catholic church, which is not responsible for our financial viability,” he said.
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The Iqaluit church on July 18 reported that its total collection the previous Sunday was $805.
Other indigenous leaders have said they will take action against church funding. Near Vernon, British Columbia, the Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis will propose ending a $17,000 subsidy to the local Catholic diocese for church maintenance and upkeep.
As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, approved in 2006, Catholic entities were required to provide three kinds of reparation: to pay $29 million out of their own funds, to deliver $25 million of “in-kind” contributions primarily aimed at survivors and their families, and to run a $25 million “best efforts” capital fundraising campaign.
The “in-kind” contributions consisted of community projects, family counseling, and reconciliation work. These services were vetted and approved by indigenous leaders, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Gruard-McLelland told Canada’s Catholic Register newspaper in July.
“These proposals, I guess you would call them, had to be signed off by some Indigenous leadership — either a chief in council or a friendship center board or some other group like that,” Archbishop Pettipas said.
Archbishop Pettipas headed the Catholic Entities Party to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement, the corporation which represented the 48 Catholic entities. This corporation was dissolved after the agreement was fulfilled in 2014.