Victoria arson: Ukrainian Canadian Congress calls on police to investigate attack as hate crime

Victoria arson: Ukrainian Canadian Congress calls on police to investigate attack as hate crime
Courtesy Howie Allan
Firefighters respond to an arson at the Fernwood home of a Ukrainian Catholic Church pastor Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

An organization representing Ukrainian-Canadians is calling on police to investigate the arson of a Victoria pastor’s home as a targeted hate crime.

In the early hours of Wednesday, April 20, Father Yuriy Vyshnevskyy says his wife heard a noise on the front porch of their Fernwood home and when she investigated, she saw gasoline being poured through her home’s mail slot.

A fire erupted as she ran upstairs to wake her husband and the family of five narrowly escaped, with one of the couple’s young daughters suffering a severe cut caused by broken glass as she jumped from the second floor.

Victoria police have deemed the fire an arson, but have so far declined to say what the motivation behind it was, or whether it was inspired by anti-Ukraine sentiment amid Russia’s invasion of its neighbouring country.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which coordinates and represents the interests of the country’s 1.4-million Ukrainian-Canadians, suggested the pastor was likely targeted for his work in the community.

“We call on law enforcement to fully, promptly and thoroughly investigate this heinous crime against five innocent people,” the organization said on its website. “Given that Father Vyshnevskyy is a dedicated community leader who through his work is strongly supporting the Ukrainian people and their defence of their homeland from Russia’s genocidal war, we call on local authorities to investigate this attack as a hate crime.”

Congress said it was prepared to offer any assistance it could as the family recovers from the devastating attack.

Vyshnevskyy told CHEK News Wednesday he has not received any threats leading up to the fire and is unsure if the motivation was personal or related to the war in Ukraine.

“Who would want to burn the family, with children, while they’re asleep?” he said.

Const. Cam MacIntyre, spokesperson for Victoria Police says they have not yet ruled out this was a hate crime.

“There have been questions surrounding this, given the structure’s proximity to a Ukrainian Catholic Church, very close, there’s a connection there between the family and the church,” MacIntyre said. “Obviously something that we are looking at. There is nothing clear to indicate motive at this point other than the fact that it was an arson.”

Premier John Horgan was asked for his reaction when he heard of the fire.

“The first thing I want to do is acknowledge and offer my sympathies to the family, Father Vyshnevskyy and his daughters were fleeing a fire in their home. Which is tragic enough, when it’s potentially an arson, potentially a hate crime, this is certainly something that British Columbians don’t expect to wake up to.”

Vyshnevskyy and his family are staying with parishioners as the house is not liveable.

The Canada Helps website is accepting donations for the pastor and his family through the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s St. Nicholas Parish. Anyone making a donation is asked to specify that it is meant for the Vyshnevskyy family.

A GoFundMe campaign has also been launched to help the Vyshnevskyy family.

Andriy Fabrikov, a family friend, organized the campaign, and said they reached their target of $10,000 in hours.

“In two hours we had $5,000, and in three hours we had almost 100% of the amount. Today we have that $23,000. That’s really amazing.”

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