After two years, the RCMP has closed its investigation into the 2019 fire at the Mackenzie Place high-rise apartment building in Hay River.

In a March 25 news release, the RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit (MCU) noted it has been “actively investigating” the fire at the high-rise on March 15, 2019, and the Office of the Fire Marshal also conducted an investigation.

“On March 17, 2019, the Fire Marshal’s office preliminary findings indicated intentionality of fire,” the news release stated. “MCU continued with a criminal investigation. The investigation was lengthy and involved several support services and agencies. In the end, the criminal investigation did not yield evidence to support criminal charges. The file is now closed.”

The RCMP recognized that the news may be disappointing to the people affected by the fire.

“While this may not be the news they wanted to hear, it is important to remember that should new evidence or information come forward, the investigation can be reopened,” stated Cpl. Greg Morrow of the RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit.

Harry Satdeo, the owner of Mackenzie Place, seemed to be resigned to the investigation ending when contacted by The Hub and hearing for the first time that the case had been closed.

Satdeo said he does not object that the investigation has closed.

“There is no need to spend more taxpayers’ money,” he said from his residence in Florida.

And he doesn’t believe that, after two years, the police will find any new evidence, illustrating that point with a proverb from his home country of Guyana: “What rain can’t fill, dew will never be able to fill.”

Asked what that saying means, Satdeo explained, “That they took two years and they haven’t found anything. They would never be able to find anything.”

Still, Satdeo believes that the fire was a “malicious” arson.

However, whether or not the fire can ever be proven to be an arson will not affect Satdeo’s efforts to reopen the building, which has remained closed since the fire.

“That has nothing to do with reopening the building,” he said.

As for whether someone may come forward with new information about the fire, he said, “It doesn’t bother me whether they come forward or not.”

Again, he explained that’s because it would not affect his efforts to reopen the building.

Satdeo said he received no information from the RCMP about its investigation into the fire.

“I am disappointed that we emailed the RCMP about two years ago and we haven’t heard a thing from them,” he said. “And to see this report now, it’s kind of amazing.”

Satdeo said he was aware an investigation was underway.

“We knew something was going on,” he said. “We were hoping to hear something. I guess the bureaucracy is so big that they can’t deal with little things.”

Even after two years, Satdeo remains optimistic that Mackenzie Place will reopen.

The building owner said he is still waiting on word from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on an application for funding to help repair the building.

A public health order issued by the GNWT because of environmental concerns still restricts access to the building.

The 16-storey Mackenzie Place has been empty of tenants since an estimated 125 people were displaced by the fire.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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