Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) are condemning what they call the “malicious anti-Indigenous and anti-Semitic hate speech” of Catholic Priest Rev. Marcin Mironiuk of Edmonton.
Vice World News first reported on and shared portions of Mironiuk’s comments that were streamed live during Polish-language masses on July 18 at Our Lady Queen of Poland parish in Edmonton.
“We are in the presence of lies here in Canada,” Mironiuk said in Polish during a mass. “There were reports stating why these children were dying. They were dying from natural causes and were buried in regular cemeteries, and that’s why we’re living now in a great lie.”
On Aug 13, the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton announced that Mironiuk had been placed on indefinite leave and that an apology from him and the Oblate Fathers of Assumption Province would be read at this past weekend’s masses.
In addition to the comments, Mironiuk said he visited the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and, without disclosing he was a priest, asked to see the unmarked graves — a request that was denied as he was told the grounds were sacred and not open to the public.
In a joint statement, Tk’emlúps and the UBCIC called that incognito trip to the former residential site “a display of pure racism, utter disrespect and contempt for residential school survivors, intergenerational survivors and First Nation caretaker communities of the missing children.”
“The public incitement, willful promotion and dissemination of hatred are punishable offences under the Criminal Code of Canada,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the UBCIC.
“In several publicly posted sermons, Rev. Mironiuk delivered false, derogatory, racist and severely re-traumatizing statements to his congregation and public followers. He referred to the uncovering of mass graves at former residential schools as ‘the unfolding of big, big lies’ that people will come to believe as truth and called upon his followers to ‘protect the truth,’ dismissing the proven systemic abuse, violence and atrocities committed at these schools while encouraging and inciting hatred.”
Stewart said Mironiuk also went on to make several anti-Semitic statements that compared the mass and unmarked graves at residential schools to the Jedwabne pogrom in Poland during the Second World War, in which hundreds of Jews were murdered by ethnic Poles, an event Mironiuk said was a lie perpetuated by Jewish people.
Tk’emlúps and the UBCIC said it is unacceptable that the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton initially sheltered Rev. Mironiuk and would have allowed him to continue preaching publicly.
“The Archdiocese cannot claim they are committed to truth and reconciliation when they continue the Catholic tradition of protecting abusers and prioritizing their public image, only offering insincere words, never meaningful action, that minimize and downplay the severity of their role and culpability in residential schools,” the statement reads.
The UBCIC is calling for Mironiuk’s immediate dismissal from ministry and an investigation into his actions as hate crimes.
Tk’emlúps Coun. Jeanette Jules said Mironiuk has shown “reprehensible disrespect” toward the countless number of missing and unidentified children and toward First Nations communities across the country.
Jules noted it took almost a month, from when the remarks were made on July 18 to Aug. 13, for Mironiuk’s superiors to take action, only after the story was first reported by Vice World Media.
“Very unfortunately, this is not surprising given that the Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly refused to accept responsibility or formally apologize for its direct role in the numerous and horrific abuses committed against Indigenous children through the Residential School system, despite having operated over 70 pr cent of all Indian residential schools in Canada,” Jules said.
In March 2019, Mironiuk was attacked by a young man following evening mass. A group of elderly women attending mass used their canes to stop the attack and send the assailant running, according to the Catholic World News.
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