Priest’s remarks close down Winnipeg parish Masses

Winnipeg masses cancelled

Sunday masses are being cancelled at the Winnipeg Catholic church, where a Canadian priest questioned the motives of residential school survivors.

The Archdiocese of St. Boniface said Saturday that the three masses scheduled for Sunday at St. Emile Catholic Church have been cancelled on the recommendation of Winnipeg police.

During a July 10 mass, Father Rhéal Forest said residential school survivors lied about being sexually abused to receive more money during the settlement process with the federal government.

“If they wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, scoop, another $50,000,” Forest said.

Police alerted the church that they’d seen comments online and recommended cancelling services as a precaution, archdiocese communications coordinator Daniel Bahuaud said Saturday.

Forest acknowledged that a few had bad treatment. However, he said some of that was due not to nuns and priests but rather night watchmen.

The priest’s remarks come as the discovery of unmarked gravesites near residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have roiled Canada. It renewed scrutiny on a system that sought to detach Indigenous children from their homes and cultures.

In its 2015 report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said there have been “over 40 successful convictions of former residential school staff members who sexually or physically abused students.”

As of Jan. 31 of that year, 37,951 claims for injuries resulting from physical and sexual abuse at residential schools had been received.

Father Forest has also caused concern over comments he made suggesting he would shoot church vandals

Photos from July showed the words “Save our children” spray-painted on Precious Blood Roman Catholic Church in Winnipeg. It is an apparent reference to children forced to attend residential schools.

“As I’m passing by, thoughts of anger. If I had a shotgun at night and I’d see them, I’d go, ‘Boom!’ just to scare them and if they don’t run away, I’ll shoot them,” Forest said in the July 18 sermon.

He then quickly backtracked, saying: “But this would not help, it’s bad to do that, I’d go have a chat with them.” He went on to blame the media for making the vandals believe the Catholic Church killed residential school children.



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