Altercation occurs during protest outside Catholic church in Edmonton
Protesters gathered to rebuke Rev. Marcin Mironiuk’s denial of unmarked graves at former residential schools
A scuffle broke out at a church in Edmonton Sunday morning, while protesters gathered there in response to a Catholic priest who called reports of unmarked graves at former residential schools "lies."
Over the past several months, ground-penetrating radar scans have revealed thousands of remains on former residential school grounds.
Rev. Marcin Mironiuk, leader of Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish, referred to news of those unmarked burial sites as "lies" and "manipulation" in church on July 18 during and after masses. Video footage of his comments was posted to YouTube, but has since been deleted.
"We're here to tell the truth and we're here to hold him accountable. And we're here to let these people know we're not standing for this any longer," said Elder Taz Augustine, who organized a protest outside the church during mass Sunday morning.
Mironiuk apologized for his comments last week at the request of the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton. He has also been placed on indefinite leave.
But these actions are not enough to address the harm caused by Mironiuk's words, Augustine said.
- Edmonton priest apologizes after calling reports of unmarked graves at residential school sites 'lies'
"When I hear these people walking out of this church justifying his words and saying he's telling the truth, that we're the liars? No," she said.
"He is perpetuating lies. And that apology is not taking that away."
Protesters met with resistance at church
Tensions rose between parishioners and protesters outside the church.
Around 11 a.m., protesters tried walking into the church, and were met with resistance at the entrance. CBC News witnessed people inside the church pushing protesters out, which led to a scuffle where the protesters pushed back.
"Those people assaulted me on my land when I'm defending the children," Augustine told CBC News.
"This is the bulls--t that we've been putting up with on our land since these colonial people have come."
Protesters said they hoped to enter the church to respond to Mironiuk's statements and hear an apology in person.
Edmonton police arrived on the scene after the altercation. No arrests were made.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton released Mironiuk's full apology Saturday, alongside a message from the Oblates Fathers of Assumption Province, his Polish superiors.
The statement apologizes for Mironiuk's actions, calling them "careless and improvised."
Mironiuk's full apology stated he will observe a memorial mass every month for the next year, specifically for children who died in residential schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified over 3,200 people who died at residential schools in its 2015 report.
But records from those institutions are incomplete. An estimated 6,000 Indigenous children are believed to have died at residential schools.
With files from Madeleine Cummings and Katrine Deniset