Canada

Kehewin Cree Nation church destroyed by fire, youth charged by RCMP

EDMONTON —
A Roman Catholic church near Bonnyville, Alta. has been destroyed after a fire was “deliberately set” Friday evening, police say. 

RCMP say they responded alongside Bonnyville fire services to Our Lady of Mercy on Kehewin Cree Nation around 9:45 p.m. Friday which was already in flames.

According to Mounties, the church was slated to be demolished as it had remained vacant for several years.

“Through investigation police learned the fire was deliberately set,” RCMP said in a media release.

Bonnyville RCMP charged a youth with arson in relation to the incident. The youth was released from custody and is scheduled to appear in Bonnyville provincial court on Sept. 21.

No one was injured.

The name of the youth will not be released due to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Fr. Jhack Diaz, with the Catholic Diocese of St. Paul, told CTV News Edmonton that he received text messages from his parishioners Friday evening informing him about the fire.

“I was really shocked and really, really sad,” he said.

Diaz serves the community and used to celebrate masses in the building prior to it being condemned. Masses are celebrated at the community recreation centre.

“Kehewin is a beautiful community. People are welcoming and very friendly and religiously motivated,” he added. “I really don’t understand why people are doing this.”

Several churches in Alberta and British Columbia have been vandalized and damaged or destroyed by fire in the wake of discoveries of unmarked graves near former residential school sites in Saskatchewan and in Kamloops, B.C.

Kehewin Cree Nation is approximately 235 kilometres northeast of Edmonton and 20 kilometres south of Bonnyville, Alta.


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