Waswanipi family suspect arson after beloved camp burns to the ground
Sam Blacksmith's chainsaws and other tools were also stolen from the site at Wilson Lake, Que.
A family from the Quebec James Bay community of Waswanipi is struggling to understand why their beloved cabin is now a pile of ashes.
The camp, which included two cabins, one shed and a teepee, burned to the ground sometime between Sunday Oct. 1 and Tuesday Oct. 3, according to Donavan Blacksmith, whose father Sam spent 20 years building it, with the help of his brother and friends.
"He loved the camp so much, that was home to him," said Donovan Blacksmith. "It hurts to see my father cry, my parents cry."
Donavan says his father's chainsaws, brushcutters and generator were also stolen. The family did not have insurance coverage on the camp.
"It took him 20 years to make his dream camp," said Blacksmith. "I feel sorry for him."
A video of what's left of the Blacksmith family camp at Wilson Lake, a small body of water about 250 kilometres northeast of Val d'Or, Que., has been viewed close to 200,000 times and shared thousands of times on social media, particularly in Indigenous communities across Canada and beyond.
Dozens of people, from as far away as Alaska, Northwest Territories and Manitoba, have commented and donated to a GoFundMe campaign set up to help the family rebuild.
"Please use this small contribution to hire someone to help rebuild your life's work," said one contributor from Prince Albert, Sask. "Please know there is still truth and beauty in the world, and that there still are caring, good people in the world."
As of Wednesday, the campaign had raised close to $5,000. A neighbour also donated a chainsaw.
"It shows that us Natives or Aboriginal people stand together no matter what happens," said Blacksmith.
The Sûreté du Québec visited the site on Oct. 5 and are still investigating what happened, but they say it's not a clear case of arson.
For Blacksmith, it is very clear.
"It looks like it was an organized fire," said Blacksmith. "Not even one tree is burnt and it didn't start a forest fire."