Two more Catholic churches burn in B.C.'s southern Interior, chief says

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CAWSTON, B.C. — The chief of an Indigenous Nation in British Columbia's southern Interior says two more Catholic churches in the region have burned in fires early this morning.

Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow says he got a call around 4 a.m. and found the church in Chopaka near the U.S. border had burned to the ground.

He says he also got a call that the Upper Similkameen band's church near Hedley had burned down shortly before.

Two other Catholic churches on First Nation lands around nearby Osoyoos and Oliver were destroyed last week in fires that police consider suspicious.

Crow says Catholics in the Lower Similkameen community were devastated by those fires and by the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops.

He's encouraging anyone hurting to reach out for help in a heartbreaking time.

The small church in Chopaka was built more than 100 years ago and hosted a service a couple of weeks ago, Crow said in a phone interview.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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