Churches on western Canada's Indigenous land keep burning weeks after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of children at the former sites of Catholic-run residential schools. Per the BBC, fires at St Ann's Church and the Chopaka Church, both in internior British Columbia, began within an hour of each other. The Catholic churches are on the Upper Similkameen Indian Band and Lower Similkameen Indian Band reserves, respectively, per CBC. Officials said both churches were completely destroyed and called the incidents "suspicious." The fires occurred less than one week after twin fires on June 21, Canada's Indigenous Peoples Day, left churches burned on land of the Penticton Indian Band and 25 miles away on Osoyoos Indian Band land just north of the Washington state border.
As the number of burning churches has gone up, so too have the number of gruesome finds at the sites of former Catholic schools. Per the AP, leaders of Indigenous groups in Canada said last week that investigators have found more than 600 unmarked graves at such sites—a discovery that follows last month's report of 215 bodies found at another school. Starting in the 1800s, Indigenous children were forced to attend such residential schools scattered around the country, and in many cases, the children were never returned home, with little or no explanation offered to families. The children are believed to have died from neglect, abuse, and sicknesses like tuberculosis. The government apologized in 2008, but the church has yet to do so. Investigators have not yet named a cause or motive in the fires. (Read more First Nations stories.)