Two Catholic churches destroyed by fires in B.C. Interior

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      Two Catholic churches in British Columbia’s South Okanagan region were destroyed by fire early this morning—and investigations are underway into what caused the blazes. 

      B.C. RCMP stated that at 1:22 a.m. today (June 21), a Penticton RCMP officer spotted a fire at the Sacred Heart Church on Green Mountain Road, located on Penticton Indian Band lands.

      By the time he arrived at the church, the structure was completely engulfed in flames.

      Then at 3:10 a.m. on the same day, Oliver RCMP received notification that St. Gregory’s Church on Nk’mip Road, located on Osoyoos Indian Band lands, was on fire.

      Both churches have since burned to the ground. Investigators are regarding the fires as suspicious.

      RCMP are liaising with both the Penticton and Osoyoos Indian Bands during the investigations into these fires.

      “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,” Penticton South Okanagan RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Jason Bayda stated in a news release.  “We are sensitive to the recent events, but won’t speculate on a motive.”

      In the wake of the discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Residential School in late May, some vandalism of B.C. Catholic churches have been reported.

      On May 31, St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Kamloops was found covered with the words “banished”, “evicted”, and “crime scene”, as well as a large X on the door.

      On June 13, St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Parish in Vancouver was found vandalized with the words “release the records” and “killers” written on the front doors.

      Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, which celebrates First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people and cultures.

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