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ONTARIO, July 9, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A former adviser and close friend to Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau is being called out for saying the recent rash of arson and vandalism attacks on mostly Catholic churches are “understandable.”
The comment was made by Gerald Butts, who was an advisor to Trudeau until he resigned in the wake of the SNC Lavalin scandal in 2019.
On Tuesday, he wrote on Twitter that “it may be understandable” that people want to burn down churches in light of the discovery of unmarked graves at now-closed indigenous residential schools once run by the Church.
The controversy began after Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin took issue with some on social media who have come to the defense of Harsha Walia, executive director of the British Columbia (B.C.) Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA).
Canadian lawyer Naomi Sayers came to the defense of Walia, saying publicly said that she would help “burn” down Catholic churches, as well as offering to help defend anyone caught attempting arson.
Butts first took a swipe at Glavin for calling our Walia’s remarks, to which Glavin replied, “So Gerry, defending the ‘burning churches is cool’ crowd?”
It was then that Butts replied with his “understandable” remark.
Glavin was not finished in calling out Butts, writing, “Failed Liberal brainiac Gerry Butts thinks burning indigenous churches ‘may be understandable.’ Wonder when he'll find it politically expedient to shrug off the burning of mosques and synagogues.”
This elicited a response from Butts, who again said it was “understandable” that churches are being burned.
“Look buddy, I'm not going to break the Crash Davis rule, and will ignore the personal insult. But I was an altar boy in a small Atlantic Canadian parish in the early 1980s. I can understand why someone would want to burn down a church, though I do not condone it,” wrote Butts.
Butt’s remarks come after Trudeau himself also said that it is that it is “understandable” that churches have been burned, while at the same time saying it is “unacceptable and wrong.”
Sun columnist Brian Lilley blasted Butts in an opinion piece for his remarks.
“And with those words, Trudeau, and now Butts, have given an excuse to those who have and continue to carry out these attacks. These very same attacks have been denounced by First Nations leadership in stronger terms and it has rightly been pointed out that it does nothing for reconciliation,” wrote Lilley on Wednesday.
Heavy media coverage of the unmarked graves at the now-closed Kamloops Indian Residential School located in British Columbia as well as in Saskatchewan has resulted in over 35 churches, most of them Catholic, being either burned or vandalized.
An online map posted by True North News shows the locations of these churches.
Trudeau has also blasted the Catholic Church publicly, saying he expects “the Church to step up and take responsibility for its role in this.”
However, the Catholic Church in Canada as well as in Rome has already acknowledged that some Catholics were at fault in the government-mandated residential school system.
In April 2009, Pope Benedict XVI met with First Nations representatives and apologized for the abuse children suffered in the schools.
Phil Fontaine, then-national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, emerged from the meeting satisfied, saying, “What we wanted the Pope to say to us was that he was sorry and … that he deeply felt for us.
“We heard that very clearly today,” Fontaine added.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School was run by the Catholic Church from 1890 until 1969 and was closed by the federal government in 1977.
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.
After the government mandated attendance at the schools in the 1920s, children were forcibly removed from their families and parents threatened with prison if they did not comply. Upon arrival at the school, children rarely saw their families, with many disappearing or never seeing their families again.
A priest who spoke to LifeSiteNews under condition of anonymity after the first two churches on indigenous land in British Columbia were set ablaze, said that First Nations Catholics will suffer the loss of their churches, but that sadly we can “expect more” burnings to come.
A report from the early 1900s by a medical inspector showed high rates of tuberculosis among Indigenous children as well as a lack of proper funding from the government.
In a recent report published by LifeSiteNews well-known Canadian Catholic author Michael O’Brien, who himself attended a residential school for three years, cautioned against using the discovery of the graves as a reason to attack the Catholic Church.
Another report published by LifeSiteNews highlights how Cree playwright Tomson Highway, as well as the late Inuvik Dene band chief Cece Hodgson-McCauley, said that attending the schools set them up for success later in their adult life.