Mayor in Canadian Arctic wants to tax churches: ‘Very clear that the Catholic Church hasn’t done the community any good’
IQALUIT, Nunavut, July 12, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The mayor of Iqaluit, the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, recently proposed taxing local churches, and he plans to bring forward this motion at the upcoming city council meeting.
According to Nunatsiaq News, this announcement came after reports of the discovery of 751 bodies, some of which are believed to be former students, located in unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential school, which is about 160 kilometres east of Regina, Sask.
Mayor Kenny Bell threatened to remove the churches’ exemption from paying municipal property taxes, claiming they did not deserve it. “We’re not retaliating against them; they literally killed thousands of children,” he alleged in an interview with Nunatsiaq News. In 2020, Bell supported the removal of a Nunavut cabinet official from office after he made comments defending black unborn babies.
“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 claimed, regardless of the fact that some Indigenous people say that they benefited from and are grateful for the residential schools they attended.
He said this to persuade the Catholic Church to release documents about the history of residential schools. Bell also says that the Catholic Church needs to apologize, despite the fact that the Catholic Church in Canada – and in Rome – has long acknowledged some Catholics were at fault in the residential school system. It was the Canadian government, however, that mandated that First Nations children be taken from their parents and placed in residential schools, some of which were run by the Catholic Church.
“Other than [removing the tax exemption], there’s no [recourse] to deal with them,” Bell said, claiming he was not targeting Catholic Churches, but all local churches.
Father Daniel Perreault, a priest at the Iqaluit Roman Catholic Church, responded by saying that his parish “stands in solidarity with the Native peoples of Canada,” but “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 local parishes does not harm the Canadian or world-wide Catholic Church, which is not responsible for our financial viability,” Perreault said. “It rather limits our ability to help our fellow Iqalummiut.”
He pointed out that the diocese responsible for the Iqaluit Catholic Church was the first in Canada to apologize to residential school alumni in 1996, and again in 2014.
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 gave 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.