In the hours after a man was arrested for the Easter Sunday fire that destroyed the lone church in St. Theresa Point First Nation, the community is working to forgive.
On Monday, Manitoba RCMP said a 32-year-old man was in custody, after he was reported leaving the local Roman Catholic Church, which burned to the ground in a fire shortly before 3 p.m.
The suspect is known to much of the remote Oji-Cree community, St. Theresa Point Chief Marie Wood said.
"We’re a community that forgives, and I know that some people have been struggling with contraband (drugs) in our community, and this person was one of them," she said.
The suspect had not yet been named by police; Wood did not want to identify him.
There were no injuries, as morning mass had concluded prior to the fire.
St. Theresa Point is located about 480 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. The reserve has a population of about 2,800.
Wood said the man’s mother and other community members had attempted to find treatment for the suspect, but calls for outside help at the provincial and federal level have gone unanswered.
"It’s very hard in our community, because there’s no services, no treatment centre. There’s also no aftercare for our youth that are incarcerated that have been released," she said. "We’ve been asking for help from the government to help us with our community."
Bernard Wood, who worked with the St. Theresa Point ministry (and is related to Chief Marie Wood), said Monday the local population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, and the fire has left many without a place to worship.
"If you want to go back in history about it, this church came from our elders, that said we’d like to have this community of Roman Catholics," he said. "Thinking about that, where do we go in terms of the church now? Where are we going to go?"
Plans are already underway to possibly congregate in the high school gym before holding the service outside on Sunday.
The community has been "depressed" in the hours after the fire, Bernard Wood said, but optimistic about fundraising efforts to build a new church.
St. Theresa Point had already raised $150,000 over the last two years for church repairs (including a needed new roof), but Chief Marie Wood said building a new structure from the ground up could cost as much as $1 million.
Police said the investigation into the fire is ongoing.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.