Separate fires destroy 2 churches on Canadian Indigenous reserves

AgenciesUpdated: Wednesday, June 23, 2021, 12:56 AM IST
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Oliver (Canada)

Two Roman Catholic churches on First Nations reserves in British Columbia have bur­n­ed to the ground in ove­r­night fires, Canada's national police force said Monday.

The Royal Canadian Mou­nted Police said a patrol officer saw fire come from the Sacred Heart Church on the Penticton Indian Band rese­rve early Monday morning. By the time the officer arrived on scene, police say the church was fully engulfed.

Less than two hours later, the RCMP in Oliver, British Columbia were called to St Gregory’s Church, located on the Osoyoos Indian Band reserve. They say police are liaising with both the Penticton and Osoyoos Indian Bands as part of the investigation.

The RCMP say both churches were destroyed and investigators are treating the fires as suspicious.

“Should our investigations deem these fires as arson, the RCMP will be looking at all possible motives and allow the facts and evidence to direct our investigative action,” Sgt Jason Bayda says.

“We are sensitive to the recent events, but won’t speculate on a motive.”

PM Justin Trudeau said he is "deeply disappointed" the Roman Catholic Church has not offered a formal apology and made amends for its role in Canada's former system of church-run Indigenous boarding schools.

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