The van of nuns that was seen driving around Northwest B.C. the other week. Rumours of sex trafficking involving the nuns spread over social media, as the nuns had been trying to get into various First Nations communities. (Ashley Studley photo)

‘Wanted to see the ocean, enjoy nature’: Visiting nuns cause frenzy online in northwest B.C.

Social media posts ran rampant when six Catholic nuns were seen driving around Northwest B.C.

Recently, a group of Catholic nuns in a van with an Alberta licence plate was seen driving around communities in Northwest B.C. causing a social media furor.

People were sharing photos of the nuns on Facebook, and many claims were made involving possible sex trafficking. Parents were urged to keep their children safe and away from the van, as the nuns made their way around the Northwest.

The Kitimat Northern Sentinel 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.

The nuns were spotted in Kitimat, Prince Rupert, and Burns Lake, among other communities.

Father Terry Brock from Annunciation Church in Prince Rupert then wrote a letter to the editor of The Northern View, 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.”

The letter was also sent to the Catholic church in Kitimat, where Brock used to work, who then forwarded it to the Kitimat Northern Sentinel.

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 posted pictures of the nuns, along with their fears of why they thought the nuns here.

“Late last night a van full of ‘nuns’ were trying to get into the village to go pray for our people,” a Facebook post by Ashley Studley read. “I respect that, but something was fishy about it. They were found in the Nass Valley today as well. I’m not sure why my gut is leaning towards the suspicion of sex traffickers, we can never be too careful.”

“Creepy van full of nuns going around trying to go from village to village everyone keep your kids safe!!! Don’t let your kids travel around alone,” Lynn Innes wrote in another post.

Once it was discovered that the nuns were real, comments came from either side, some apologizing and some condemning them for trying to get into communities that are closed during the pandemic.

“I can appreciate what they were trying to see. I can also, and most importantly, understand why smaller communities are very hesitant about letting strangers into their communities,” Barbara Kalina wrote in a comment in response to Brock’s letter to the editor that the Kitimat Northern Sentinel shared on Facebook. “[These] traveling nuns…should’ve been told this before they started their trip and that way they would have not felt as uncomfortable as you have made them out to be.”

“I feel bad these ladies experienced such negativity,” Jen Nunes wrote in another response to the Northern Sentinel’s post. “Unfounded posts on Facebook spreading fear that they were going around kidnapping children and selling them into the sex slave trade were extremely rude and unwarranted.”

Some people were less sympathetic to the nuns and said they felt they should’ve planned better coming into a community during a pandemic.

“[E]very time I hear about the church it’s predatory,” Amanda Acal wrote in response to the Terrace Standard’s shared post on Facebook about Brock’s letter. “Being a bunch of nuns doesn’t exempt you.”

“…and given history, a group of church representatives showing up to a reserve community without prior communication is a poorly thought out plan,” Friday Bailey’s response to the Terrace Standard’s post added.

Brock explained that the nuns didn’t know when they first arrived that the First Nations communities were closed to the public, but they respected the rules when they were turned away.

“The border used to be closed from Alberta to B.C., but that’s open, so they can go anywhere,” Brock said. “So, I would say naively and innocently they didn’t know, but they found out when they went to Kitamaat Village, that they couldn’t get in. So, they respected that, turned around and left.”

The nuns have since gone back to Edmonton, and Brock said he is unsure of whether they’ll return again after this experience.



clare.rayment@northernsentinel.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

North Coast BC NDP MLA Incumbent is seen with her wife Andrea Wilmot and their son Lua, as well as their dog Duncan. Preliminary results on election night Oct. 24 show Rice is in for a third term. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Poppy donation boxes have been delivered to restaurants, cafes, stores and places of businesses in Prince Rupert by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 127 for the 2020 National Poppy Campaign. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
National poppy campaign restricted by COVID-19

Prince Rupert Royal Canadian legion expects less donations to offer vital assistance to local vets

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read