RCMP say a church fire at a Nova Scotia First Nation is suspicious

RCMP is investigating the cause of a fire at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Indian Brook First Nation, N.S. on June 30/Photo by Stephen Brake

The RCMP is investigating a fire that happened at a Catholic church in Indian Brook First Nation, N.S.

According to the RCMP, police and the local fire department responded to a fire at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Indian Brook shortly after 4 a.m on June 30. The fire caused significant damage to the back side of the church.

The RCMP said its preliminary investigation has determined the fire to be suspicious.

The June 30 fire at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish damaged the back of the church/Photo by Stephen Brake

According to a spokesperson with the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, Archdiocese Dunn visited the church later in the morning to examine the damage.

“The Volunteer Fire Department was on the scene quickly and we are grateful for their rapid response,” John Stevens said in a prepared statement.

More remains found in Saskatchewan, British Columbia

The fire at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish is the latest of several churches that have been set on fire in Alberta and British Columbia in the past several days as news of more human remains have been discovered at former residential school sites in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

The Lower Kooteney Band in British Columbia is the latest First Nation to announce it found 182 human remains in unmarked graves near the site of St. Eugene Mission School.

On June 24, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan said it found 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School. In late May, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation near Kamloops, B.C. was the first First Nation to say it found the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Survey team with Saint Mary’s University, N.S. scanned sections of land at the former site of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School on June 5/Photo by Stephen Brake

The Sipekne’katik First Nation has also been surveying the grounds of the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School to see if there are any unmarked graves on the property.

Indian Brook First Nation, which is part of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, is located approximately nine kilometres from the Village of Shubenacadie where the only residential school in Atlantic Canada was located.

“This is not the answer” – Heather Knockwood

Heather Knockwood is the president of the Ladies of St. Anne, one of several church groups associated with St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Indian Brook. She says she noticed people leaving comments online stating they wanted to set fire to the church on Canada Day.

“We knew this was going to happen. It happened a day sooner,” she said.

Heather Knockwood is the president of the Ladies of St. Anne in Indian Brook First Nation, N.S./Photo by Stephen Brake

Knockwood said she understands the pain and hurt First Nations people are going through as more news of human remains being discovered at former residential school sites. However, she said that setting fire to churches isn’t the best way to deal with that pain.

“It’s just a really sad time. I just cried. I’m really hurt and I know our people are hurting,” Knockwood said. “To me, this is not the answer. To burn the church is not the answer with what’s happening with our people today,” she added.

Knockwood said the Ladies of St. Anne have yet to meet to discuss the cost to repair the damage caused by the fire. She said most of the funding to maintain the church comes from the Sipekne’katik First Nation chief and council.

“This can be rebuilt. This is the fifth church that’s been rebuilt,” Knockwood said.

“I really don’t think violence is the answer to the grief that we’re experiencing. I prefer peaceful measures,” she said.

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About Maureen Googoo 270 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news more than 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.