Overnight fires at 2 Anglican churches in B.C. deemed suspicious
Church near New Hazelton completely destroyed, Tofino church sustained minimal damage
Fires at two Anglican churches in B.C. overnight have been deemed suspicious by RCMP.
The churches near New Hazelton and in Tofino are the latest of several that have been set on fire in the province.
A 108-year-old church on Gitwangak First Nation land near New Hazelton was completely destroyed on Thursday night, according to RCMP Sgt. Chris Manseau.
That same church was damaged in a suspicious fire last week.
Chasity Daniels, former chief of the Gitwangak First Nation, was driving past the St. Paul's Anglican Church around 10:30 p.m. PT when she spotted flames.
"Anyone who would have done that did wrong because it wasn't a Catholic Church, it was an Anglican Church and there's nothing but good memories in that church for our community," she said.
She said members of the Gitwangak First Nation helped build the church.
A church in Tofino was also set ablaze at about 4 a.m. PT on Friday. The fire destroyed part of a wall, but was extinguished before any more damage was done.
Both fires are under investigation by the RCMP.
Manseau said the fires are of significant concern as the province is currently under extreme wildfire risk.
"We have wildfires burning around the province, we have an entire town that was lost to a wildfire," he said, referring to Lytton, B.C., noting that fires like this could lead to something more widespread.
The RCMP are asking anyone with information about the fires to contact their local RCMP detachment.
'Unacceptable and wrong': Prime Minister
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the wave of vandalism and arson attacks targeting churches across Canada.
"It is unacceptable and wrong that acts of vandalism and arson are being seen across the country, including against Catholic churches," he said.
While he recognized the anger that many have felt since several First Nations have reported finding unmarked graves at former residential school sites, he said it's not the solution to the trauma caused by the residential school system.
"We shouldn't be lashing out at buildings that can provide solace to some of our fellow citizens," Trudeau said.
"But we should be, every day, committing ourselves, each and every one of us, to the hard work that we need to do to actually rebuild a path forward that reflects the terrible intergenerational trauma and present day realities of suffering that we are all collectively responsible for."
With files from Yvette Brend and Elizabeth Thompson