Conservative MP Dane Lloyd grilled officials from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Public Safety Canada for ignoring the torching of nearly 30 churches in the summer of 2021 on the heels of residential school grave reports.
Lloyd questioned three officials with the security agencies during a May 12 Commons public safety committee meeting on ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE).
“Is Public Safety currently investigating the burning of over 30 churches in Canada last year?” asked Lloyd.
“Public Safety does not have an investigative mandate – that might be better directed towards RCMP,” said the Director General of the National and Cyber Security Branch of Public Safety Canada Lesley Soper.
“But you said in your testimony that you were given a mandate by this government in 2021 to bring IMVE perpetrators to justice, and now you’re saying you don’t have a mandate to investigate,” stated Lloyd.
Officials with CSIS also refused to give a straight answer as to why the church burnings were not included in its 2021 threat assessment report.
“I just find it interesting because you do have extensive stuff in your report about ideologically motivated extremism, religiously motivated extremism, politically motivated extremism and yet 30 churches being burned down in Canada last year didn’t merit a mention,” said Lloyd.
“Can you tell us if CSIS has ever reached out to show support and solidarity with the 30 church communities that were burned down in Canada in 2021?”
“What I will say is that the service is always extremely concerned with any violent form of extremist activity – in this case that had already gone into the criminal realm, so the RCMP may have further comments,” said CSIS Director General of Policy and Foreign Relations Cherie Henderson.
Lloyd responded with reference to the Morinville church fire, which saw the Alberta community’s century-old Catholic church burned down in June.
“It would be nice to have a statement of at least concern for these communities from CSIS considering the fact that at 4 a.m. in the morning in my town of Morinville over 50 people had to be evacuated from their homes because a church was burned down, and there was a massive threat that a senior’s home apartments were going to be burned to the ground,” said Lloyd.
“This could have been one of the highest mass casualty terrorist event on Canadian soil in our modern history, and yet it doesn’t seem to have merited a single mention by our security service so I want to put that on the record.”
Last year, True North compiled a map of the nearly 70 cases of arson and vandalism targeting churches across Canada.