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 the 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

(File image)
Vehicle collides with propane line causing explosion in Thornhill

Driver sustained severe burns, was taken to Lower Mainland in air ambulance

The plan to build a staircase to the Bench includes a channel to more easily transport bicycles up and down. (Photo courtesy City of Terrace)
Staircase to Bench subject of City grant application

Would connect lower Eby St. to upper Eby St.

The car was trapped, with its driver inside, in a ditch off Hirsch Creek Main near Onion Lake overnight Monday (Oct. 19). Oct. 20, 2020. Kitimat RCMP photo.
Man found after spending overnight stuck in car in a ditch near Onion Lake

Kitimat RCMP said the man was stuck there overnight for about 10 hours

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals. (Black Press Composite Photo)
FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

One of the squirrels who ended up having their tails amputated after getting them stuck together with tree sap. (Facebook/Wild ARC)
Squirrels recovering from tail amputation after sap situation near Victoria

BC SPCA Wild ARC says squirrels will be released back into wild, fifth sibling was euthanized

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Most Read