CALGARY — The Calgary Police Service is asking for help from the public to identify suspects believed responsible for vandalism at a number of churches, including a fire investigators say was deliberately set.
The damage is believed to be in response to the discovery of unmarked graves near former residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
“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 a 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.
“We remain committed to working toward peaceful reconciliation with the Indigenous community while still performing our duties of upholding the law and protecting public safety.”
Red graffiti was painted on the outside of 11 churches in the city on the evening of June 30 and early-morning hours of July 1,
“In one case, a window was smashed so paint could also be thrown inside. Handprints, the number ‘215’ and other markings suggest the vandalism was in response to the graves recently found at former residential schools,” police said.
Then on July 4 at about 7:20 p.m., emergency crews were called to fire a church in Forest Heights, which was believed to be arson.
The Calgary Police Service Arson Unit is investigating, along with the Calgary Fire Department.
Surveillance photos of suspects were released by police on Wednesday in the hope someone will recognize them.
Police believe at least three people were responsible for damage at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, Grace Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s Cathedral.
An unknown woman is believed to be responsible for leaving red and orange paint at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church and a number of people are believed to have splashed paint at Holy Trinity Church.
Officers are now conducting proactive patrols around specific churches, which officials say will continue “for the foreseeable future.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the police non-emergency line at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Help is available for anyone having trouble processing recent events: