Emergency responders attended the Co-Cathedral of St. Patrick in downtown Yellowknife approximately 30 minutes into July 1.

The City of Yellowknife Fire Division (YKFD), RCMP, medics and the Municipal Enforcement Division (MED) responded to a call for fire response at around 12:30 a.m.

No flames were visible from the downtown church though emergency responders made use of the fire hydrant at the corner of 52 Avenue and 53 Street across from Bruno’s Pizza.

Bystanders gathered in nearby corners to watch vested responders enter the church’s side door on 53 Street with at least one responder at the front entrance on 52 Avenue.

One stain-glass window was broken on the side of the building.

A stained-glass window was broken in the July 1 fire at the church. Natalie Pressman/NNSL photo

Though no one from the on-scene authorities were authorized to speak with media, bystanding residents shared suspicions of an arson attack on the church.

Chris Wood lives in a nearby condo and heard the sirens arrive on scene.

“If it was on purpose I think it’s sad,” Wood said, adding that a beef against the church is one thing, but that the act endangers the surrounding houses and dozens of residents in the neighbourhood.

In the wake of the recent discoveries of unmarked graves by former residential schools, at least eight fires have broken out in churches across the country. Five in British Columbia, two in Alberta and one about 65 kilometres northeast of Halifax in Nova Scotia.

Wood, a member of the St. Patrick church for over a decade, said the congregation “expected if it was going to be anything that it was going to be tonight or tomorrow,” though he repeated his comments were merely speculative.

Though details on the emergency are not yet known, bystanders speculated an arson attack on the church as the newest in a string of church fires across the country. Natalie Pressman/NNSL photo

Approached on scene, Father Marek Pisarek declined to comment on the Canada Day emergency.

A representative with the Office of the Fire Marshal arrived on scene at approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

This story will be updated.

Natalie Pressman

Reporting courts and cops and general news, Natalie started with NNSL Media in 2020. Before moving to Yellowknife, Natalie worked as a community radio trainer in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent First...

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  1. There are many past abuses and they are horrific. I was raised fearing an angry God. I left the church for many years. But I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater! Then while in university I decided to check out a church next to campus. Besides Sunday services, they had a food bank, a soup kitchen, a women’s center, tai chi classes, AA, NA, free yoga, a singles club, lectures by local profs, etc, etc. I started a meditation group. They also had about 200 volunteers involved in various services including a refugee committee and a group promoting international development. Every year they got together to participate in the local Pride Parade in support of their GLBT parishioners. We should be critical of the colonial past and church complicity. It’s a warning to watch out for institutionalized religion without transforming hearts. We can take time to grieve with those who suffered, if asked. In many countries the churches provide up to or over 50 % of the social services providing free labor and its buildings. Let’s THINK/REFLECT and not REACT to media reports or FB or Twitter! And let’s NOT justify burning down churches in FN communities or elsewhere! Let’s not trip over our past while we stumble into an uncertain future where we will need to be UNITED!