Head of Canadian civil liberties group who called for churches to ‘burn’ resigns after public outcry
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July 20, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The head of a Canadian civil group who called for Catholic churches to be burned “down” in late June resigned from her job after an outcry.
In a statement posted last Friday, the board of directors for the British Columbia (B.C.) Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) announced they accepted the resignation of Harsha Walia, who served as its executive director.
The BCCLA Board heavily praised Walia for “her bold, skillful, and compassionate leadership” at the organization in the statement about her resignation.
She tweeted in response to the discovery of unmarked graves at now-closed indigenous residential schools once run by the church.
According to a Global News report, shortly after her “burn it all down” tweet, Walia tweeted that it was “totally ridiculous to suggest I am actively calling for arson,” adding that “yes, I do think deadly genocidal colonialism locally and globally needs to collapse.”
There has been heavy media coverage of the discovery of unmarked graves at now-closed residential schools once run by the Church in parts of Canada. Forty-seven churches, most of them Catholic, have either been burned or vandalized.
An online map posted by True North News shows the locations of the churches.
In a separate statement regarding Walia’s resignation, BCCLA president David Fai wrote that the organization regrets the “misunderstanding that was caused by the tweet and apologizes for the harm the words caused.”
“Words matter. Context matters. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association supports the cherished right to free expression, and as an organization we want our messages to be clear. A tweet by our executive director on her personal account failed in that regard,” Fai wrote.
Fai claimed that Walia’s “Burn it all down” quote resulted in large amounts of “hateful commentary” directed at her that he said was “fueled by the fact that our executive director is a racialized woman leader.”
He defended Walia’s comments, claiming earlier they were not to “be taken literally but were a recognition that the system that created residential schools is so flawed that we need ‘to burn it all down’ and start over.”
Many took to social media to show their disbelief that the head of a well-known organization would call for destruction after his tweet went viral.
Walia’s words received condemnation from B.C. Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, who said they were “disgusting and reprehensible” and would not bring about “reconciliation.”
On an appearance with FOX News host Tucker Carlson, Rebel News founder Ezra Levant said the multitude of arson attacks on churches in Canada is the nation’s “Black Lives Matter” moment and called out the near silence regarding the burnings from the nation’s top leaders.
Carlson noted that “all of a sudden Canada looks a lot like the Soviet Union,” before his interview with Levant.
“Seems like we're exaggerating a little bit? Well, they're burning Catholic and Anglican churches in recent days. Leftist groups are. But Canada's leaders aren't condemning the burning of churches. No, they're endorsing the burning of churches,” he continued.
Canadian lawyer Naomi Sayers came to the defense of Walia, saying publicly that she would help “burn” down Catholic churches, as well as offering to help defend anyone caught attempting arson.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waited weeks before acknowledging the church vandalism, and when he did speak, he said it is “understandable” that churches have been burned, also saying it is “unacceptable and wrong.”
In early July, Gerald Butts, a former adviser and close friend to Trudeau, was called out for saying the recent rash of arson and vandalism attacks on mostly Catholic churches are “understandable.”
Although the residential school system was founded by the secular government in the 19th century and then woefully underfunded by the state -- and although different religious groups were asked to run the schools -- the Catholic Church has borne the brunt of recent criticism.
Catholic author Michael O’Brien, who attended residential schools and presented testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, previously told LifeSiteNews that the chief underlying issue in the residential school saga was the institutional abuse of children by removing them from their families by the state authorities and then taken to the schools, noting the “long-term psychological and social effects of this.”
Furthermore, residential schools were severely underfunded, meaning that children did not receive sufficient medical care. These children often suffered from excessively high rates of tuberculosis. From 1910 through 1920, child mortality rates were consistently high. Additionally, the Department of Indian Affairs often refused to ship home the bodies of children who died at the government-mandated schools, meaning they were frequently buried on site.