Little damage as suspicious fire probed at abandoned church in northwestern B.C.

·1 min read
Little damage as suspicious fire probed at abandoned church in northwestern B.C.

GITWANGAK, B.C. — The Mounties say they are investigating a suspicious fire at an abandoned church in northwestern British Columbia.

New Hazelton RCMP say the fire was reported early Saturday morning on the Gitwangak First Nation and was quickly extinguished with minimal damage and no injuries.

Staff Sgt. Darren Durnin says in a statement that police want to know if the blaze could be linked to four recent fires at churches within Indigenous communities in the south Okanagan.

A social media post from the Gitwangak Band says the former Anglican Church in that community is no longer used and it is in "no way affiliated" with residential schools.

Two tiny Catholic churches, one outside Hedley and the other at Chopaka, were destroyed by fires early Saturday, just days after separate fires near Osoyoos and Oliver levelled Catholic churches on band land there.

RCMP east of Calgary said that they, too, are investigating a fire that appeared to have been deliberately set at a Catholic church on the Siksika First Nation early Monday. Catholic churches in Saskatoon and Edmonton were also vandalized with red paint in the past week.

The fires and vandalism come less than a month after the discovery of what's believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.

The Cowessess First Nation in southeastern Saskatchewan is also investigating after ground-penetrating radar indicated 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School. (CFTK)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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