Castanet [Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada]
August 17, 2021
By Tim Petruk
First Nations leaders condemn Catholic priest who called reports of unmarked graves a ‘huge lie’
First Nations leaders are condemning a Catholic priest from Alberta accused of referring to the reports of an unmarked graveyard at the Kamloops residential school as a “huge lie.”
Rev. Marcin Mironiuk is also accused of travelling to Kamloops, failing to disclose his status as a Catholic priest and attempting to gain access to the grave site.
On May 27, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc band announced it had located 215 unmarked graves near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The announcement sparked a national dialogue and led to a number of similar statements from First Nations across Canada.
In a joint statement from Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Mironiuk’s actions were described as racist.
“Rev. Mironiuk delivered false, derogatory, racist and severely re-traumatizing statements to his congregation and public followers,” Grand Chief Stuart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said in the statement.
“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.”
Mironiuk made the comments in question during a series of sermons in recent weeks. Some of the comments were videotaped and posted online.
Mironiuk has since apologized for the remarks. He was placed on administrative leave on Friday, after news of the sermon came to light.
Mironiuk is accused of admitting he travelled to the Kamloops Indian Residential School in an effort to see the graves, which are protected by 24-hour security.
The joint UBCIC-Tk’emlups statement called those actions “a display of pure racism, utter disrespect and contempt for residential school survivors.”
“Under deceitful circumstances, in which he went incognito to conceal his identity as a priest, he repeatedly asked to see the unmarked graves‚ a request which was denied, as he was told the grounds were sacred and not open to the public,” the statement read.
The statement calls for Mironiuk to be dismissed by the church and investigated for potential hate crimes.
“In calling the unmarked and mass grave sites at residential schools ‘lies’ and ‘manipulation,’ and in disrespecting the rights and jurisdiction of Tk’emlups to protect the sacred burial grounds, Rev. Mironiuk has shows us the hate, ignorance and bigotry that has fuelled and enabled Canada’s colonial regime and genocide against Indigenous peoples for centuries,” Tk’emlups Coun. Jeanette Jules said in the statement.
“Through his callous remarks, Rev. Mironiuk has shown reprehensible disrespect toward the countless number of missing and unidentified children, and toward First Nations communities across the country who are working tirelessly to find every stolen child so they can be given the dignity of a name, identity and a proper burial place.”
The band has said the investigation into the Tk’emlups grave site is ongoing.