Edmonton police are investigating after a statue outside a local Catholic church was covered in paint — an apparent reference to the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites.
On Sunday morning, congregants at Holy Rosary Catholic Church found a statue of Pope John Paul II covered in red handprints. Red footprints had been tracked to the front door, while stuffed animals had been placed around the statue’s base.
John Paul II was the first pope from Poland and the statue outside the largely Polish congregation commemorates his 1984 visit to Edmonton. The church is located at 114 Avenue and 106 Street.
Police say a female suspect was seen vandalizing the statue at around 11 p.m. Saturday evening.
“The EPS Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit has been notified of the incident, though the file will remain with the division until HCVEU has had an opportunity to properly assess this situation,” spokesman Scott Pattison said in an email.
Postmedia has reached out to the church and the archdiocese for comment.
Two Catholic churches in Saskatoon were similarly vandalized last week after the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the Marieval Indian Residential School, which the church operated.
Red hand prints and the words “we were children” were painted on the doors of St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in Saskatoon after a demonstration there Thursday. That night, someone poured red and orange paint on the Sisters Legacy statue at Regina’s Wascana Centre.
Several historic churches in First Nations’ communities in B.C. have fallen victim to suspected arson in recent weeks, after the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
—with files from Ashley Joannou, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Canadian Press