(Canadian Press)

Fire destroys Catholic Church north of Edmonton, RCMP say blaze suspicious

Fire was so fierce that firefighters could not enter the 114-year-old Morinville building

A Catholic Church in northern Alberta has been destroyed by what RCMP are calling a suspicious fire.

RCMP say in a release that officers were called to the blaze at St. John Baptiste Parish in Morinville, about 40 kilometres north of Edmonton, just after 3 a.m.

Iain Bushell, Morinville’s general manager of infrastructure and community services, confirms the church has been lost.

He says the fire was so fierce that firefighters could not enter the 114-year-old building and the roof collapsed a short time later.

Bushell says the two main steeples and front facade of the church are completely gone.

Bushell, a former firefighter, says the cause of the fire is undetermined.

“Certainly the timing is unfortunate, given that it is a rather iconic Catholic Church in our community and with the timing of sad events that have been uncovered in the country, right now,” Bushell said Wednesday in a phone interview from the scene.

Four small Catholic churches on Indigenous lands in rural southern British Columbia have been destroyed by suspicious fires and a vacant former Anglican church in northwestern B.C. was recently damaged in what RCMP said could be arson.

The fires happened less than a month after the discovery of what’s believed to be the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.

The Cowessess First Nation in southeastern Saskatchewan also announced last week that ground-penetrating radar detected 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

Some 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools, which operated for more than 120 years in Canada. More than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: RCMP scrutinize suspicious church fire in northwest B.C. for any links to Okanagan blazes

ArsonIndigenousReligionresidential schools