A youth was arrested by Bonnyville RCMP and charged with arson in connection with a fire that was deliberately set at an Alberta church.
At 9:45 p.m. on July 9, RCMP and Kehewin and Bonnyville fire services responded to a report of a fire at Our Lady of Mercy, an abandoned church on the Kehewin Cree Nation.
“The building was slated to be demolished as it had been vacant for many years,” RCMP said in a news release.
No one was injured in the fire.
A statement from Bishop Paul Terrio of the Diocese of St. Paul says the church was built in 1984 and that it belonged to the Kehewin First Nation.
The statement says the building was declared unfit for public use due to mold and dampness in 2019, and since then mass for parishioners has been held in the Reserve Community Hall.
“We ask all our parishioners of the diocese to join in prayers for the Kehewin people as they mourn the loss of their church and we encourage all to promote reconciliation and peace,” Terrio said in the statement, noting the church had burned to the ground.
The youth has been released from custody and is set to appear in court on Sept. 21.
In accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the youth’s name is not being released.
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Kehewin Cree Nation is located about 230 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, near Frog Lake.
A number of churches on First Nations across the country have been burned in arson incidents recently following the grim discovery of unmarked graves on the sites of two former residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
RCMP is also investigating fires at the Siksika Catholic Church and Siksika Anglican Church from late June.
— With files from the Canadian Press