Yellowknife RCMP have begun a criminal investigation into the July 1 fire at a Yellowknife church.
Due to the damage done to other religious buildings across the country, the RCMP is treating the fire as suspicious.
The RCMP and the Yellowknife Fire Division attended the Co-Cathedral of St. Patrick at the corner of 52 Avenue and 53 Street at approximately 12:30 a.m. on July 1.
The fire was suppressed shortly thereafter and no on was injured though the building sustained minor damage, including one broken stain-glass window.
RCMP indicated that the investigation, conducted along side the office of the Fire Marshall, is still in its infancy and the cause of the fire is not yet known. They are asking the public to assist with any potential observation of activity preceding or following the 12:30 a.m. event.
Anyone with video footage in the area of 52nd St and 52nd Ave – including from vehicle dash cams, home security footage or any smart phone coverage – is asked to call Yellowknife RCMP at 669-1111, Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or text “nwtnutips” plus your message to 274637.
“We are all aware of the tragedy of the residential school system, unfolding across our country,” Yellowknife RCMP Commander Insp Dyson Smith said in a statement, adding that, “This incident is concerning for our community in Yellowknife. We must be clear, acts of vandalism are criminal acts and those who endanger life and property will be held accountable by law.”
Approached on scene, Father Marek Pisarek declined to comment on the Canada Day emergency. He later told the Yellowknifer he would not be making any statements on the event.
In a post to the church’s Facebook page, Bishop Jon Hansen of the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, called the fire intentional.
He said there doesn’t appear to be damage to the building’s structure or roof and that the damage is mostly related to smoke and fire suppression activities from emergency responders.
“We are still waiting for information about next steps, and will provide updates as soon as information is available about mass times, location etc,” he said.
Hansen could be not reached for further comment on the incident.
Lea Barbosa-Leclerc, a member of the church and president of the Philippine Cultural Association of Yellowknife (PCAY), said she was saddened by the July 1 fire.
“Setting places of worship (on fire) is not a way to reconcile what took place,” she said. “As a guest in these lands, I am forever grateful to the Indigenous communities for welcoming and sharing their lands.”
As unmarked graves continue to be uncovered on sites of former residential schools, PCAY is hosting a candle lighting ceremony in solidarity with Indigenous communities.
The Light Up the Lake event will take place at 9 p.m. July 1 along the shores of Frame Lake off Somba K’e Park.
“I cannot speak for others but I consider myself an advocate for children, anti racism and community building. What just took place is not one I support,” Barbosa-Leclerc said of the fire. “Our parents, grandparents, Elders and children come to this place because it gives them peace, hope and a place to belong.”