Rural Saskatchewan church burns to the ground

Click to play video: 'Rural Saskatchewan church burns to the ground'
Rural Saskatchewan church burns to the ground
WATCH: In rural Saskatchewan, a former church burnt to the ground on Thursday by Redberry Lake – Jul 9, 2021

A former Roman Catholic church near Redberry Lake, northwest of Saskatoon, has burned to the ground.

Lynn Swystun said she noticed the blaze at about 12:15 p.m. on Thursday.

“I live about a mile and a half from here and I (had) seen the smoke, so I just hightailed it over to my truck and drove up here. I didn’t drive very far and I could see it was the church on fire. … It was too far gone to do anything,” she said.

“It’s on the ground, … the chimney standing. The community is just in disbelief and sad. I mean, it’s been standing here for over 100 years.”

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While it was not being used as a church anymore, the outside had been restored in recent years.

The historic church was known as the “Polish Church.” A plaque at the site says Holy Trinity Roman Catholic church was open from 1909 to 1985.

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Her husband Doug Swystun grew up nearby and said it’s a big loss.

“I see this landmark missing, it’s just heartbreaking because there isn’t much that changes in this area. … And when you see something like this missing, is just a little piece of you went missing too — heartbreaking.”

The couple said they don’t know what started the blaze. Rod Swystun, who helped restore the church years ago, says it was not hooked up to power, and the grass around it was trimmed. Rod Swystun is the brother of Doug Swystun.

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RCMP are investigating, but so far no cause is known.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe expressed sadness and concern about the incident in a statement released Friday. The church property is located in Moe’s home constituency.

“While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, the burning of this church is suspicious without question in the midst of other arson attacks on churches across Canada,” Moe said.

“In the last number of weeks, I have seen Saskatchewan people come together in the wake of tragic discoveries to build hope for the future while recognizing the harmful actions of the past. Acts of division do nothing to further this purpose, nor do they represent the collective heart of Saskatchewan people. The individuals responsible for such destructive and hate-driven acts must be held accountable.”

Redberry Lake is approximately 70 km northwest of Saskatoon.

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