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The head of the BC Civil Liberties Association – who said “burn them all” in relation to Catholic churches in Canada – has resigned.

And the BCCLA said the controversy over the statement was only as bad as it was because the head is an ethnic citizen.

When Harsha Walia sent out the tweet two weeks ago she claimed she had been misquoted and taken out of context by the Western Standard.

“Words matter. Context matters. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association supports the cherished right to free expression, and as an organization we want our messages to be clear. A tweet by our executive director on her personal account failed in that regard, the BCCLA said in a statement Friday night after accepting Walia’s resignation.

“Using a particular turn of phrase in that context left some people with the wrong impression about the values and principles to which we adhere.

“We regret the misunderstanding that was caused by the tweet and apologize for the harm the words caused.

“Further, we acknowledge the anger, frustration, and sadness many people feel after the confirmation of over 1,000 unmarked graves of Indigenous children at various residential school sites. We share those emotions and share in the desire to dismantle the colonial systems that commit genocide.

“During the aftermath of the tweet, we encountered a wave of hateful commentary, fueled by the fact that our executive director is a racialized woman leader. Our executive director and staff were exposed to inexcusable racism and misogyny and threats to physical and mental safety. We did not engage with those voices and are prioritizing the health and safety of staff. We have also taken time to gather feedback within our organization and with our community partners. These events have been difficult, but we are emerging stronger and more committed to our work. We are back with the same fearless truth-telling that our supporters and detractors know us for.”

According to its website, the BCCLA fights in the courts for “equality rights in relation to mental health, disability, gender, youth, immigration, refugees, race, poverty, LGBTQ2S+ rights, and more. We know looking through an inter-sectional lens is the only way to fight inequality and injustice. We fight overt and systemic discrimination, and seek to promote fairness and equality in Canada.”

Attacking religious buildings is normally classified as a hate crime in Canada.

Walia’s call to burn churches caused a firestorm of social media anger.

After the June 30 tweet, the BCCLA initially stood by Walia.

BCCLA President David Fai said Walia made the “personal” comment and didn’t mean “Burn them all down” literally.

“We are confident her comments were not to be taken literally but were a recognition that the system that created residential schools is so flawed that we need ‘to burn it all down’ and start over,” tweeted Fai.

A day later, indigenous Alberta lawyer Naomi Sayers said she would help burn down churches and be glad to defend anyone charged with arson after setting fire to a church.

A spree of arson and other acts of destruction have been occurring against Christian churches, focused mostly on indigenous Catholic congregations. The acts range from petty vandalism to lighting fires in or around the churches, destroying many.

As of publication, there have been more than 30 attacks against churches – including at least five completely destroyed by fires, at least three damaged by fires, and more than 15 vandalized to varying degrees.

The spree began when several hundred graves were discovered on the grounds of residential school is BC and Saskatchewan.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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