Fifth church found on fire in First Nations community in B.C.

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      A fifth church in a First Nations community in British Columbia was found on fire—this time in Northwestern B.C. 

      North District RCMP stated in a news release issued today (June 27) that New Hazleton RCMP received a call about a fire at a church in Gitwangak (also known as Kitwanga) at 1:15 a.m. on June 26.

      The fire was in the entranceway of a vacant church on Church Road. Global News reported that it was at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Gitwangak, which is located between Terrace and New Hazelton.

      The New Hazleton Fire Department responded and managed to extinguish the flames. 

      No one was injured and the church only sustained minimal damage. The structure remains intact. 

      New Hazelton RCMP Sgt. Darren Durnin stated that this fire is being regarded as suspicious and investigators are looking into whether there are connections to the other four fires at churches in the Okanagan in First Nations communities. 

      In contrast to this incident, the other four churches on fire this week were all Catholic churches, in the Okanagan, and all burned down. 

      On June 21, Sacred Heart Church, located on Penticton Indian Band lands, and St. Gregory’s Church on Nk’mip Road, located on Osoyoos Indian Band lands were found in flames and burnt to the ground.

      On June 26, St. Ann’s Catholic Church on Upper Similkameen Indian Band lands near Hedley and the Chopaka Catholic Church in Chopaka on Lower Similkameen Indian Band lands were discovered on fire and have since been destroyed by the blazes.

      These fires have taken place In the wake of the discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Residential School in late May and the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan on June 24.