Skip to content

EDITORIAL: Church fire not the time, place for premier's politicking

"At a time when Kenney's popularity among Albertans is wavering, the public relations tactic was tacky, and careless."

Morinville lost its historic St. Jean Baptiste Church in the centre of town to a dramatic fire last week. 

Shortly after, while walking through the charred remains left behind by the local disaster, Alberta's premier did even more damage to the community with his words.

The blaze was one of many to hit churches across Canada in recent weeks, sparking questions over whether the string of fires is a misguided effort to right the wrongs of religious involvement in the operation of the country's residential school system, and a reaction to the recent discoveries of the bodies of Indigenous children in unmarked graves on former residential school sites in B.C. and Saskatchewan.

As community members in Morinville gathered to mourn just hours after the loss of its oldest church, Premier Jason Kenney arrived at the site and hopped in front of a slew of cameras.

He condemned what he said appeared to be "a hate-motivated act of violence" and "an attack on Canadian values."

“We all know Canada has to redouble its efforts of reconciliation, but hate-inspired violence and burning down a faith community, targeting them with these acts of violence and intimidation, is not reconciliation," said Kenney while standing in front of what remained of the burned-out church. "It is not the way forward. It is a dangerous, violent, and criminal act.” 

It's also not accurate, given that officials had not yet released the cause of the fire. RCMP said they would be treating the fire as suspicious, but that it would take time to determine the results of the investigation, which at that point had just begun.

Shortly thereafter came a slick, well-produced promotional video set to heartfelt music, released on Kenney's social media accounts, showing the premier interacting with Morinville residents, and shots from an artful angle of him surrounded by media in front of the church, complete with a voice-over expressing his sympathy and solidarity. 

At a time when Kenney's popularity among Albertans is wavering, the public relations tactic was tacky, and careless.

The idea that the church is one of several "attacked by hateful violence" is a mere assumption at this stage – one that is reactive, divisive, and subversively ignites the centuries-old conflict Canada's Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples have, of late, been working to repair.

Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, was swift to respond, stating Kenney's quick reaction without knowing the official cause of the fire "deeply saddened and even angered" the province's Indigenous communities at its potential to cause division, and place indirect blame.

"Further, we have yet to see Kenney react the same way to speak with Muslim women who have been attacked numerous times as of recent, nor has he visited any of the nations or residential school sites located in Alberta to discuss the uncovering of children and bringing them home," said Noskey in a letter sent to media.

Chief George Arcand Jr., of Alexander First Nation, also responded with a peaceful plea to the public to wait and see before laying blame.

"We ask that you give us the grace to pause and reflect on the issues before us without speculation and rumour," said Arcand in a letter. "Please allow time for the authorities to do what needs to be done."

It's a pity our premier, when given the opportunity to make amends, just makes a mess. 

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette's editorial board.


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks