Arson charges in connection with historic Fort Chipewyan church fire – Edmonton


Two men are facing arson charges in connection with a fire at a historic church in northeastern Alberta.

At 2:34 a.m. Aug. 25, Fort Chipewyan RCMP were called to a structural fire at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Catholic Church.

When the teams arrived, the church was engulfed in flames. The fire could not be extinguished and the building was destroyed.

An arson investigation has been launched by the Fort Chipewyan RCMP Detachment, the RMWB Regional Emergency Services Fire Investigation Unit and Wood Buffalo Forensic Identification Services.

On Monday, RCMP said Raymond Ahyasou-Cardinal, 19, a resident of Fort Chipewyan, was charged with arson.

He was released after a court hearing and is due in the Fort Chipewyan Provincial Courthouse on December 1.

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A warrant for the arrest was obtained and was about to be issued for August Tanner Marcel, 26, also a Fort Chipewyan resident, for arson. Just before the warrant was issued, Marcel surrendered to the RCMP on October 24th. He is awaiting a court hearing.

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Fire at historic Fort Chipewyan church under suspicious investigation, RCMP say

At the time of the fire, officers said it was a great loss to the community.

Built in 1909, the church has been part of the community for over 100 years.

In a statement, the chief and council of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said they were saddened by the loss of the church.

“Even though the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Roman Catholic Church is complicated, the loss of the Church will be deeply felt in the community,” the statement said.

“Over 100 years of history in the community has been lost, a history that included weddings, funerals and hundreds of other significant moments in the community.”

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Fire at historic Fort Chipewyan church under suspicious investigation, RCMP say

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro also issued a statement on the church fire, saying he was concerned about the destruction of churches by vandalism. He wondered “if the same hatred and intolerance are behind this latest devastating act”.

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“Hate crimes like this have no place in Alberta, and our government has worked hard to provide protection and support to those who are targeted,” Shandro said in August.

RCMP have asked members of the public who feel victimized by this crime to contact the Wood Buffalo Victim Services Unit at 780-788-4250 for information on how to complete victim impact statements and other resources available.

Fort Chipewyan is located in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, approximately 700 kilometers northeast of Edmonton.

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