Police are investigating a church fire that was intentionally started on Sunday night in southeast Calgary,Firefighters responded to several calls reporting a fire at the House of Prayer Alliance Church, located at 4924 Forego Ave. SE, around 7.20 p.m. Sunday.
Battalion Chief Keith Stahl said crews found smoke and thick flames which they were able to extinguish and determined there was no one inside.
He said the fire was mostly confined to the exterior of the building with some exterior burns.
Staff Sgt. Kurt Jacobs said Monday afternoon that while the fire investigation is still in the preliminary stages, police believe it was not accidental.
There are no suspects at the moment.
Church pastor Thai Nguyen told CBC News on Monday that the fire had worried him.
” I do not know who [did] I don’t know what happened, ”Nguyen said.
” I feel sad. I’m not very happy because, you know, we’re… from Vietnam, refugees. We come here looking for a new life, with a new church here. We think we are in [a] good country… but I think we have to be more careful. “
Canada has the Catholic Church and the residential school system
The incident occurred as churches across the province and country have been set on fire or degraded in recent weeks, in a wave of vandalism that has occurred since several First Nations said they found unmarked graves on the sites of former boarding schools.
On July 30, the parish of Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Morinville, about 40 kilometers north of Edmonton, was destroyed by fire.
Meanwhile, at least 11 Calgary churches have been smeared with red paint following a national judgment on the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system.
The House of Prayer is not affiliated with the Catholic Church.
In recent weeks, it is estimated that over 1,000 unmarked burial sites have been located in former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
The Catholic Church operated over half of all residential schools in Canada between 1831 and 1996, as well as many day schools.
“We ask people … to be patient”
Police said detectives investigating the recent Calgary church vandalism would also be involved in the investigation into the House of Prayer Alliance church fire to determine if there are any links to the other cases.
“Investigators will explore all of these leads,” Jacobs said.
“We are very aware of the current tensions in the community around the residential schools and the acts of vandalism and arson that have occurred,” Calgary police said in a press release.
“We will examine if there is a connection in this matter, but we ask people in the meantime to be patient as we work to understand what exactly happened.
“Our service recognizes the trauma, pain and anger felt by many members of the community following the recent news of graves found in former residential schools. “
Calgary churches that have recently been vandalized include:
- St. Bonaventure Catholic Church at 1600 Acadia Dr. SE
- St. Elisabeth Catholic Church of Hungary at 819 13th Ave. SW
- Saint Mary’s Cathedral at 219 18th Ave. SW
- Church of the Sacred Heart and Columbarium at 1307 14th St. SW
- Grace Presbyterian Church at 1009 15th Ave. SW
- St. Luke Parish at 1566 Northmount Dr. NW
- Holy Trinity Church at 1525 45th St. SE
- St. Anthony Catholic Parish at 5340 Fourth St. SW
- All Nations Full Gospel Church au 1403 8th Ave. SE
- St. Joseph Catholic Church at 640 19th Ave. NW
- Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church at 704 Sixth St. NE
Support is available for anyone affected by their residential school experience and for those triggered by the latest reports.
A national residential school crisis line was established to provide support to survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.