Former priest's rectory burns down in Fort Chipewyan, 2 months after losing century-old church to arson

A fire destroyed the abandoned priests rectory in Fort Chipewyan, Alta. (Submitted/Paul Grandjambe Tuccaro - image credit)
A fire destroyed the abandoned priests rectory in Fort Chipewyan, Alta. (Submitted/Paul Grandjambe Tuccaro - image credit)

A long-abandoned priest's residence in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., known locally as "Father's House" has been completely destroyed after a fire caused significant damage Sunday night.

At approximately 10 p.m. on Sunday, the Fort Chipewyan volunteer fire department responded to a report of a structure fire at the former rectory, says a news release from Wood Buffalo RCMP. Crews were able to stop the fire from spreading, but the building was a complete loss.

It's the latest historical building in the community to be lost to fire. This past spring, the sister's residence burned down. Then in the summer, the 113-year-old Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Roman Catholic Church burned down. It was among the oldest churches in the province.

"We are the oldest inhabited community in Alberta and now we have nothing historical to show off, except now our Anglican Church," said Blue Eyes Simpson, a long-time Fort Chipewyan resident.

"It's so sad …These are just buildings, it was the people who were entrusted to teach the [Roman Catholic] faith that did wrong, not the structure."

Carla Ulrich/CBC
Carla Ulrich/CBC

But as disappointing as the recent loss is, Simpson said the community will pull through and move forward.

"Our faith is strong and we shall persevere through this."

Coming together to heal

Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said there are mixed feelings in the community. He encouraged leadership to come together to try and unite both sides.

Adam said that the community needs a place to worship and gather, and that religion should be respected. But as a residential school survivor, he understands that some people cannot forgive the church, and that needs to be respected as well.

"It was a loss to the community nonetheless, a piece of history is gone," he said.

Adam said he wants to encourage the community to come together and talk about healing, instead of burning historical structures down or causing any more damage.

On Oct. 24, RCMP announced that Raymond Ahyasou-Cardinal and August Tanner Marcel, both residents of Fort Chipewyan, were charged with arson in connection to the summer church fire.

RCMP and regional fire investigators have launched an investigation into the cause of the rectory fire.