Church Members Arrested For Supporting First Nations
Church Members Arrested during Easter Mass
for Challenging Archbishop
Sunday, March 23, 2008 2:00 pm PST
Four young Catholics were arrested and dragged out of Easter Mass by police this morning after they challenged statements by Archbishop Raymond Roussin about aboriginal protestors outside Holy Rosary Catholic Church in downtown Vancouver.
Ellen and Tatyana Dobrowolski, Josh Regnier and Vikram Uchida were assaulted by police in their pews after Ellen, a student at Simon Fraser University, stood to dispute comments from the Archbishiop contained in a "pastoral letter" from him being read to the congregation by priest Glen Dion.
"I began shaking with anger when he read that letter. I couldn't just sit there with the Archbishop saying such lies, attacking the native people outside and saying they were making up the stories about children being killed in the residential schools. So I got up and I said it wasn't true, that the Archbishop shouldn't be trying to discredit people who have the courage to stand up and name what happened to them.
"I was beginning to say that our church should admit what it did, that people should make up their own minds and go speak to the protestors, and then I was grabbed by that police sergeant. He yanked me by my arm and dragged me across the person next to me, then hauled me and the others right out of church."
Outside Holy Rosary, residential school survivors and other protestors welcomed the four churchgoers as they were "warned" and then released by police, several dozen of whom blocked the entrances to the church.
"You're brave people and we honour what you did in there" said Skundaal, an aboriginal woman from the Haida Nation who survived Indian residential schools.
"I only hope others in there wake up and see through the lies they're being fed."
The protest action was called by the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD), following a similar action on March 16 when hereditary chiefs posted an Eviction Notice on Holy Rosary and other downtown churches of the Anglican and United churches. Once again, the event was heavily covered by the local and national media.
"People are driven to occupying churches when they're ignored" said FRD organizer Kevin Annett, who was personally attacked and slandered in the Vancouver Sun newspaper after the March 16 action.
"But what's so encouraging about today is that members of Archbishop Roussin's own church are getting up and challenging him for the crimes of their church. That's what's going to start shaking things up, which is why the four of them were arrested so quickly. The church knows their time is over. It's like the last days of Ricahrd Nixon around here."
A lawyer for the Vancouver Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, Mary McKinnon, contacted Kevin Annett after the March 16 protest and said the church wished to negotiate, but refused to listen to any of the FRD's demands.
"She started attacking me personally, saying I didn't represent anything and was looking for publicity. I asked her why her church refused to address the evidence or the stories of eyewitnesses, and she said they didn't have to answer to them. I thought that said it all."
Recent forensic evidence from mass graves at residential schools in B.C. has prompted the FRD to plan an escalation of their protests if the Catholic, Anglican and United churches do not surrender the remains of children who died in their Indian Residential Schools. But for survivors like Rick Lavallee of the Cree Nation, who saw his brother Randy murdered by a Catholic priest at the Portage La Prairie residential school, a lot more is needed.
"We've told them to get off our land and we'll be back with a hundred homeless people to take over their church if they don't!" shouted Rick to the cheering crowd.
"This church belongs to us residential school survivors and not the people who killed my brother."
For more information: www.hiddenfromhistory.org or 1-888-265-1007
FRD National Committee
23 March, 2008
Squamish Nation territory