Calgary police are asking for help tracking down suspects in the vandalism of 11 local churches.
The incidents took place on the night of June 30 or the early hours of July 1, with orange and red graffiti spread over the churches.
“Handprints, the number ‘215’ and other markings suggest the vandalism was in response to the graves recently found at former residential schools,” the Calgary Police Service said in a release Wednesday.
Police noted that in one incident, a window was broken so paint could be thrown inside the church.
“We acknowledge the trauma, hurt and anger being felt by many in the community over the recent news of graves being found at former residential schools,” police said in the release.
“While the vast majority of people have been peacefully expressing their responses to these events, the illegal vandalism and burning of churches across the country is dangerous and wrong.”
Police said they are “conducting proactive patrols around specific churches” for the foreseeable future.
At least three suspects are believed to be involved in the vandalism of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, Grace Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s Cathedral, according to police. No descriptions are available.
One woman was captured on security cameras using orange and red paint to apply graffiti to St. Bonaventure Catholic Church. She was wearing a black hooded sweater with the hood up, dark pants and a dark mask, according to police.
At Holy Trinity Church, several suspects were captured putting orange paint in the shape of handprints on the doors, according to police, as well as splashing paint on the sidewalks. Images of one of the suspects was released, with no descriptions available.
The news release also highlighted a fire at a church in the city’s southeast on July 4 that investigators believe was deliberately set, but that investigation continues. None of the suspects are tied to that incident and it’s unclear whether that is also connected to the residential school discoveries.
Fires have been set at churches across Canada in the wake of the findings.
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.