(LifeSiteNews) – Yet another historic Catholic church in northern Canada has been reduced to ashes in an “suspicious” case of suspected arson, with police confirming they are actively looking for suspects seen fleeing the scene.
On December 15, members of the Wood Buffalo Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said they responded to a fire call in the community of Janvier, which is about 400 kilometers northeast of Alberta’s capital, Edmonton, and is located on the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation.
Upon arrival, police said per a press release sent out Sunday that St. Gabriel Catholic Mission in Janvier was “fully engulfed in flames.”
Although the fire was eventually put out, the church was reduced to a pile of ashes.
RCMP says it’s looking for suspects seen fleeing in a silver sedan around the time the blaze started. No injuries were reported.
St. Gabriel Catholic Mission is in the Diocese of St. Paul, which is administered by Bishop Gary Franken, who told LifeSiteNews that the church destroyed was the original St. Gabriel Catholic Mission but that the newer church next to it was unharmed.
“The fire is considered suspicious,” Franken confirmed to LifeSiteNews.
“The church building destroyed by fire in Janvier was the unused ‘old’ church, which happens to be right beside the ‘new’ church that has been in use for a number of years. I was informed that the newer church was not damaged.”
Franken noted that there was talk that the “old” church was going to be used as a museum, but nothing was finalized. The church buildings belong to First Nations, Franken noted.
St. Gabriel is administered by St. John the Baptist parish of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
The S t. John the Baptist pastor would say Mass once a month at the Janvier mission. LifeSiteNews contacted the St. John the Baptist pastor for comment about the fire but has not received a reply.
‘Enough is enough’ with church burnings, says First Nations councillor
According to councillor Shane Janvier of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation, the church burning is a suspected arson attack, and the fire is being investigated. He condemned the burnings, saying “Enough is enough.”
“The significance of this old church in the community, lots of celebrations at this church over the years, lots of weddings, lots of baptisms, this is a place where we’ve come to say our last respects to our loved ones and our ancestors. You know, myself personally, my first Holy Communion was at this church … enough’s enough,” Janvier said in a video posted to his Facebook page.
“We’ve gotta start looking out for one another as a community.”
Janvier said that if the community is “going to make statements that this is our land and we’re going to fight for this land, then we damn well better learn to respect our land.”
“That’s not respecting our community,” he stressed.
Janvier urged anyone with information about the fire to contact the RCMP.
The incident was also condemned by Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre.
“Saddened to hear of the loss of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Janvier, Alberta in a suspicious fire. There is no place in Canada for acts of religious hatred or violence of any kind,” Poilievre posted Sunday on X (formerly Twitter).
The Janvier church burning is just the latest in a string of church burnings in Alberta and in Canada. Last week, LifeSiteNews reported on two historic Christian churches in Barrhead, Alberta, intentionally set on fire in what police said were suspected acts of arson.
Since the spring of 2021, well over 100 churches, most of them Catholic but all Christian, have been burned or vandalized across Canada. The attacks on the churches came shortly after the unconfirmed discovery of “unmarked graves” at now-closed residential schools once run by the Church in parts of the country.
In 2021 and 2022, the mainstream media ran with inflammatory and dubious claims that hundreds of children were buried and disregarded by Catholic priests and nuns who ran some of the schools.
Despite the church burnings, the federal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done nothing substantial to bring those responsible to justice or to stem the root cause of the burnings.
Instead, a little over a month ago, Liberal and NDP Members of Parliament (MPs) struck down a Conservative Party of Canada motion that would have condemned incidents of church burnings and acts of vandalism.
In August 2022, LifeSiteNews reported about the destruction by fire of one of the oldest standing Catholic churches in Alberta. Police at the time said the fire was a “suspicious” incident.
Despite the massive number of church fires, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in May made a brazen suggestion that the recent slew of anti-Christian church burnings could be remedied through further “online” internet regulation.
RCMP are asking for anyone with information on the fires to call the Wood Buffalo RCMP at 780-788-4000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). Crime Stoppers tips are anonymous and can also be sent online at tipsubmit.com.