British Columbia

Fire destroys 147-year-old church in Lax Kw'alaams First Nation

RCMP say the church is a historic landmark that's significant to many people in the community, and the fire damage was extensive.  

Church was a historic landmark in the remote B.C. community

RCMP say the fire damage was extensive and the fire is considered suspicious. (Lynn Doolan)

A fire destroyed a 147-year-old church in a remote Indigenous community outside of Prince Rupert, B.C., early Saturday morning. 

Dawn Roberts, director in charge of B.C. RCMP communications, said emergency services were called shortly after 5:30 a.m. to the Grace United Church in the Lax Kw'alaams First Nations community on B.C.'s North Coast.

Roberts said the church is a historic landmark that's significant to many people in the community, and the fire damage was extensive. 

No injuries were reported from the fire, which RCMP believe to be suspicious. 

Lax Kw'alaams Mayor Garry Reece said the loss of the church is a big blow to the community.

"People are quite sad," he said. "We held memorial services in there when there were deaths in the community, and we held weddings there."

Reece said the destruction of the church also means losing a connection to deceased elders.

"I was told there was a jar with the names of our people that built that church, that was stored in [the church,]" he said. "It might be gone now."

The Grace United Church was established in 1874 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1934. (Lyle Angus/Facebook)

The church was established in 1874 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1934. 

With files from Wawmeesh Hamilton, Stephanie Mercier and Nicole Oud

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