RCMP will be releasing an image of a dark-coloured truck leaving the scene just as the historic Catholic Church on Penticton Indian Band (PIB) land went up in flames early Monday morning, June 20.
“Our investigators viewed CCTV of a dark-coloured truck albeit the video was very grainy,” said South Okanagan and Penticton RCMP Sgt. Jason Bayda.
Police are also looking into whether accelerants were used in both church fires.
The Sacred Hearts Church on Green Mountain Road burned to the ground at 1:30 a.m. Monday morning, which was 2021’s National Indigenous Peoples Day.
At 3:10 a.m., over an hour after Sacred Hearts Church burned down, Oliver RCMP was notified St. Gregory’s Church on Nk’mip Road was burning.
Both churches burned to the ground and police are treating the fires as suspicious.
“We cannot speculate that the person(s) responsible had any connection to the Indigenous communities in our region, all we can do is to be there for one another in this unbelievably hard time,” the PIB council said in a statement released Monday.
PIB Chief Greg Gabriel said the Catholic church was an integral part of many members’ and Elders’ lives.
“This church has been here since 1911. It was a fixture in our community. Many in our community were members and involved in services. Some of our elders are attached to the church and have come here today very sad. They are hurting but also they understand.”
It was the Catholic Church that ran the residential school in Kamloops where 215 children’s unmarked graves were found.
The discovery has put a spotlight on Canada’s residential schools and exposed the country’s horrific history of how Indigenous peoples have been treated and shed light on the atrocities that took place. The schools were run by Catholic and Anglican churches.
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