Morinville gathers in show of solidarity after historic church destroyed by fire

Canada Day celebrations were cancelled in Morinville Thursday, but the town came together in a show of solidarity a day after the town's historic church was destroyed by fire. 

The Morinville Community Cultural Centre opened its doors to residents with Mayor Barry Turner saying it was place for residents to come together for support. 

"When you have the heart and soul of your community ripped out its very difficult to have talks of celebration," Turner said. 

"We wanted to create a space for people to come, to grieve, to share to get things off their chest." 

Firefighters were called shortly after 3 a.m. on June 30 and three hours later, were still extinguishing hot spots at St. Jean Baptiste Parish. 

Despite help from neighbouring community fire departments, the Roman Catholic church on Morinville's main thoroughfare had been badly damaged. 

Police are investigating and have said they consider the fire to be suspicious.

At a meeting Wednesday, the town council opted to cancel a community gathering planned for Canada Day. 

Turner said the decision followed discussion with Chief George Arcand of Alexander First Nation on how best to honour the day.

"We just needed time as a community to get over the shock and really start to hold each other up and move forward." 

Aside from some smoke and water damage sustained by a neighbouring building – which was once a convent and now hosts 38 apartment units as well as a museum – no other property was damage.

According to town officials, about 50 people were displaced by the apartment evacuations. Those who needed it were being sheltered at the community legion. Bushell said they could be out of their homes for 48 hours. 

Morinville is about 30 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.