When a van, with an Alberta licence plate, filled with Catholic nuns drove through Burns Lake, it caused a sudden social media panic amidst some members of the community; a reaction that has been common all throughout Northwest B.C. where these nuns have been travelling.
What started as a panic-post on social media in Kitimat, soon was shared several times throughout Northwest B.C. So when Burns Lake residents spotted the van in the village, warning post on social media immediately showed up.
People shared the description of the van, the nuns and warned parents to keep their children safe indoors and away from the nuns. They even suggested that the nuns were going around the village asking kids if they wanted to join a summer camp.
While the nuns were in Burns Lake, they stopped by a local store and bought smoothies from there and the ladies working at the store confirmed that the nuns had in fact visited the store.
“They seemed lovely, they were giggling amongst themselves, took some photos but they didn’t seem suspicious,” said one of the girls working at the store. Another one, who was shocked to see so many nuns at once, all dressed-up, found it unusual but didn’t really have any conversation with them.
“They just came in, got some smoothies and left. They were from Edmonton,” she said.
This was however the only confirmation received from someone who actually spoke with the nuns in Burns Lake. The social media post also suggested that a police report had been made but when Lakes District News asked the Burns Lake RCMP detachment if there were any reports made, Cpl. Madonna Saunderson confirmed that there was no such report with the RCMP.
The nuns were spotted in Burns Lake, Kitimat and Prince Rupert, among other communities.
Black Press confirmed that the nuns, two from Brazil and four from Poland, attended a mass at the Catholic Church in Kitimat and representatives for the church had spoken to them and said they were real nuns, here on vacation.
Father Terry Brock from Annunciation Church in Prince Rupert then wrote a letter to Black Press, saying he knew the nuns and that they were on vacation from Edmonton and “simply wanted to ‘see’ the ocean and enjoy nature.”
“They did not intend to interact with the local people because of COVID-19,” he wrote. “There was no intent to harm, no intent of disturbing their life.”
Brock, who has also worked in Kitimat and Terrace, knew the two Brazilian sisters from when they had previously lived in Terrace, themselves, as well, many years ago. That was part of the reason they came here for vacation, he added, because they were familiar with the area.
Brock said the sisters were unaware of the rumours on Facebook when they first arrived, but eventually found out when people starting approaching them.
“They were approached in both in positive and mostly negative ways,” Brock said.
He said that, once they knew about the online comments, they became more fearful in public. As did Brock, himself, as he experienced the people approaching them to tell them about the online comments when he went out for coffee with them in Prince Rupert.
Brock added that on day before they left, the sisters went for a picnic lunch at Ferry Island in Terrace, where Brock said they told him a man approached them in an intimidating manner.
“He walked up to them and said, ‘I notice your van has Alberta plates. Somebody told me you were here.’ And then he walked away.”
Brock said at this point, the sisters became very scared, packed up their picnic, and went back to Kitimat, where they were staying. They then tried to not stop as much on their drive back to Edmonton because they were afraid of being harmed.
“The six sisters … came to the West Coast to see the ocean!” Brock wrote. “They finally got to see it during their short time in Prince Rupert that was cut short due to the growing fear they experienced.”
People on Facebook had posted pictures of the nuns, along with their fears of why they thought the nuns were here.
–With files from Clare Rayment