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A spate of apparent arsons have struck mostly Catholic churches across Canada following the reported discovery of remains and unmarked graves of hundreds of Indigenous children outside former residential schools. At the former Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church near Orolow, Sask., on Thursday, July 8, 2021, ashes and debris is all that remains.

Kayle Neis/The Canadian Press

A youth has been charged with setting a fire that has destroyed an abandoned Catholic church on a First Nation in Alberta.

RCMP say in a news release that police and firefighters responded to a report of a fire at Our Lady of Mercy church on the Kehewin Cree Nation, southwest of Cold Lake, on Friday night.

They say the church had been vacant for a number of years and was slated to be demolished.

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Police say no one was injured, and a youth – whose age and gender were not given – has been charged with arson and will appear in Bonnyville Provincial Youth Court on Sept. 21.

Like attacks on mosques after 9/11, setting churches ablaze only punishes innocent worshippers

A statement from Bishop Paul Terrio of the Diocese of St. Paul says the church was built in 1984 and that it belonged to the Kehewin First Nation.

The statement says the building was declared unfit for public use due to mould and dampness in 2019, and since then mass for parishioners has been held in the Reserve Community Hall.

“We ask all our parishioners of the diocese to join in prayers for the Kehewin people as they mourn the loss of their church and we encourage all to promote reconciliation and peace,” Terrio said in the statement, noting the church had burned to the ground.

A spate of arson attacks at churches have followed the recent discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Police say the name of the youth charged in Friday’s fire will not be released in accordance to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

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