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EDITORIAL: If we had a billion dollars

As the world watched, the famed Notre-Dame de Paris burned.

As Catholics and other Christians were preparing to celebrate Easter, they're calling it a Holy Week miracle that the building escaped total destruction.

As of this writing, the damage was limited to the iconic spire, the roof and some areas below. The facade and the largest rose stained glass windows appear to have been saved.

Credit goes to the city's 400 firefighters, including those who formed a human chain led by the Paris Fire Brigade's chaplain to save priceless relics, including what is believed to be the Crown of Thorns placed on Jesus's head during the Crucifixion.

Within hours, major French corporations had committed hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the building, and more than $1 billion has been committed to date. The fundraising has only begun.

The fire probably reminded some readers of the 2005 fire that destroyed Iqaluit's St. Jude's Cathedral, itself an attraction for many visitors to the capital. It took 12 years of fundraising to pay off the $11 million cost of rebuilding.

There were no billionaires in sight: most of the money came from small donors, perhaps yourself included.

Before you open your wallet to help rebuild Notre-Dame – which is owned by France's government, by the way – consider the argument presented by many Indigenous Canadians that your money could be better spent.

Take into account the Catholic Church's persistent refusal to apologize to Indigenous people all over North and South America for the enslavement and genocide sanctioned by the Church since Pope Nicholas V sanctified the conquest of 'the New World' and the African coast. Under the authority of several papal directives collectively called the Doctrine of Discovery – still in effect, by the way – Indigenous people lost their lands and their lives.

The effects continue to be felt today by those experiencing the trauma of residential schools. To this day, no pope has apologized for Catholic involvement in this assimilation project.

The trauma of this and other assimilation efforts continues to be felt today by many Inuit, particularly through homelessness, food insecurity, and loss of identity.

The Notre-Dame fire reminds us of the connection between buildings and humanity. Here at home, Nunavut Housing Corporation president Terry Audla has stated that the territory would need $1.2 billion to build homes to fill the need faced across Nunavut. That money is not coming any time soon. To add insult to injury, every fire that happens in Nunavut gains little attention outside of the community, and only adds more people to the list of those in need.

If you had a billion dollars to donate, you would do the same as the French billionaires and keep that money close to home.

Notre-Dame is just a building and has the support of those types of folks. Take a moment and ask yourself: who's going to support your neighbours in need?

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