Members of St. Columba Anglican Church in Tofino say they’re heartbroken after finding out the building caught on fire Friday morning.
Zane Caplansky, who got married at the church to his now-wife Willa Bradshaw, said the church is a very special place to them and the community at large.
The church has been a part of Bradshaw’s entire life as she grew up next to the church.
“My heart just sank,” she said, recalling the moment she found out about the fire.
She had never imagined anything like this could happen to the century-old building.
The church has been closed during the pandemic and now with the damage, it’ll be a while longer before it opens its doors once again.
“It definitely hurts and it hurts so many of the members of our community,” Bradshaw said.
The fire occurred just weeks after the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations in Tofino say violence isn’t the answer.
In a statement to CHEK News, they said, “we’re not believers in violence. We don’t condone what took place in residential schools. People part of the church now are not directly responsible for what took place in the past.”
“We don’t support violence. We don’t believe in retribution in this way. We are peace-loving people,” they continued.
Similar fires took place at other churches this week, including St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Nanaimo on Canada Day.
While Caplansky and Bradshaw are grateful that St. Columba Anglican Church wasn’t burnt down entirely, they said it’s time to be vigilant.
“Anger is terribly uncomfortable emotion and how you express it and how you resolve it can’t be through more violence. It can’t be through more destruction. That can’t be satisfying for people,” said Caplansky. “All it does is causes somebody else to be angry and somebody else to be hurt and it perpetuates those feelings.”
He urges those who are responsible to think about the consequences of their actions as the fire could have harmed others.
The investigation is still ongoing.
Tofino RCMP are calling the incident suspicious and are asking anyone with information to contact them.