Man charged with arson, mischief after fire at Toronto church

WATCH ABOVE: Police make arrest in arson investigation at west-end Toronto church. Catherine McDonald reports.

Police have charged a man wanted in connection with a fire at St. John the Evangelist Church in Toronto over the weekend.

In a statement on Monday, Toronto police said the man was arrested by the OPP Huntsville Detachment around 2:30 p.m.

Toronto fire said they were called to 49 George St., near Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue West, at 8 a.m. on Sunday after a fire broke out inside the church. Six fire trucks and approximately 21 firefighters arrived on scene. The fire was already put out, but crews were tasked with removing smoke from the building.

Capt. Michael Westwood told Global News that no one was in the church at the time and there were no reported injuries.

The Weston Historical Society posted an announcement on its Facebook page Sunday about the incident and Easter mass cancellations, saying an altar server discovered the fire when she was opening the church and that someone had “thrown an incendiary device” through the vestry window.

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Toronto police said they believe the fire was intentionally set and that the investigation continues. Officers released photos of a suspect Sunday.

Marc Porlier, 43, has been charged with arson and mischief over $5,000.

He is scheduled to appear in a Toronto court on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, a pastor at the church said he believes Porlier was a former parishioner.

“Yes, he was, just introduced himself. He used to be here and I didn’t make anything of it at the time, I meet a lot of people,” Rev. Andrew Maderak said.

A second security image of the wanted man in connection with the fire at St. John the Evangelist church Sunday. Toronto Police/Handouts
A second security image of the wanted man in connection with the fire at St. John the Evangelist church Sunday. Toronto Police/Handouts Toronto Police/Handouts

Porlier reportedly introduced himself as a former student from St. John’s Catholic School that used to be next door to the church and wanted to meet the new priest. His former Grade 8 french teacher only realized it was him after his picture and name were released, calling him a “model student.”

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A short film published on the website Vimeo on Feb 7, 2011 appears to show Porlier criticizing the Roman Catholic Church.

“The reason I’m doing this film is because I was raised Roman Catholic and to me what that means is that I was raised in a cult,” he said. “And from the day I was born, I was brainwashed to believe what a group of men thought that truth was.”

Porlier goes on to say in the 38 minute video that growing up he wanted to be a priest and that the religion had a big impact on him.

“The thing is, as I got older, and I realized how much fear and control and division that the root of that institution, I not only didn’t want to be a part of it, but I also wanted to know what truth actually was and what religion was,” he said.

With files from Catherine McDonald and Briana Carnegie

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