RCMP investigating after Tofino church charred by flames

RCMP are investigating a suspicious fire at a church in Tofino.

Police were called to the St. Columba Anglican Church on Second Street just after 4 a.m. Friday. By that time, the blaze had been controlled by the fire department.

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Damage was limited to a small portion of the church.

“This church has been in Tofino for over 100 years and is of significant historical importance to the community,” said Sgt. Chris Manseau, RCMP spokesman. “Investigators are aware of the recent church fires occurring around the province, and will share information with them to determine if there is a link, however at this time there is nothing indicating so.”

Several churches have recently been vandalized or damaged in fires following the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

This week a historic Catholic church in Alberta was destroyed by fire and a Catholic church at a First Nation in Nova Scotia was damaged by flames.

Four small Catholic churches on Indigenous lands in rural southern B.C. were also destroyed by suspicious fires, and a vacant former Anglican church in northwestern B.C. was recently damaged in what RCMP said could be arson.

The fires occurred less than a month after the discovery of what’s believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops.

The Cowessess First Nation in southeastern Saskatchewan announced last week that ground-penetrating radar detected a potential 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

And this week the Lower Kootenay Band in B.C. said the same technology had located the remains of 182 people in unmarked graves near a former residential school site.

Some 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools, which operated for more than 120 years in Canada. More than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has detailed mistreatment at the schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children. It also found crowded living conditions, poor nutrition and substandard medical care made the children more likely to die of disease and infection.

The fire at the church in Tofino was in a location that is not in the immediate vicinity of residential properties. The building is mostly surrounded by vegetation.

The church is now boarded up. RCMP said they have been in contact with trained fire investigators for assistance.

Anyone who may have information on the fire is asked to contact the Tofino RCMP at 250-725-3242.


— With files from The Canadian Press

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