Sask. premier 'saddened' over burned church, decries 'hate-driven acts'

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he is “saddened and deeply concerned” by the destruction of the historic Polish Roman Catholic church near Redberry Lake on Thursday.

Redberry Lake is about 80 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. The church is in Moe’s constituency and has been maintained by generations of volunteers, he said in a news release.

“While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, the burning of this church is suspicious without question in the midst of other arson attacks on churches across Canada.

“In the last number of weeks, I have seen Saskatchewan people come together in the wake of tragic discoveries to build hope for the future while recognizing the harmful actions of the past. Acts of division do nothing to further this purpose, nor do they represent the collective heart of Saskatchewan people. The individuals responsible for such destructive and hate-driven acts must be held accountable.”

According to a plaque in front of what is now a pile of rubble, the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church for Orolow and District was open from 1909 to 1985.

The church was not being used but was a historic landmark where people could go inside – some even using it as a backdrop for photos, a local woman told CTV Saskatoon.

Blaine Lake RCMP said in a news release that initial investigation has deemed the fire suspicious.

“It is believed the fire had been burning for some time before police were called. Upon arrival, the church had already been destroyed by fire. Officers confirmed the church was no longer in use prior to the fire and no one was injured by the fire.”

RCMP and Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency fire investigators are investigating.

The cause has not yet been determined.

More than a dozen Christian places of worship have been set on fire and vandalized recently in Canada.

The fires are believed to be in reaction to the confirmation of more than a thousand unmarked graves so far at several former residential school sites.