St. Anne church fire not suspicious at this time: Toronto police

The four-alarm fire destroyed the national historic site on Sunday. The fire also destroyed several Group of Seven murals inside the church.

St. Anne church fire not suspicious at this time: Toronto police
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
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Authorities say that the fire at the historic St. Anne's Anglican church in Toronto is not being treated as suspicious at this time.

Investigators still do not know the cause of the blaze.

The four-alarm fire destroyed the national historic site on Sunday. The fire also destroyed several Group of Seven murals inside the church.

No one was inside the church at the time of the fire, and no injuries were reported.

The church is the latest of over 100 Christian churches in Canada that have been vandalized or burned down since the announcement that graves were found near a residential school in Kamloops in 2021. No bodies have been recovered since that announcement.

Since the Kamloops announcement, three other First Nations have announced similar findings.

"In response to these announcements, far-left radicals have used this opportunity as an excuse to terrorize Catholic and other Christian communities by targeting churches," writes Cosmin Dzsurdzsa of True North.

"This is incredibly devastating for my congregation. It’s devastating for this community,” said Father Don Beyers, a priest at St. Anne’s on Sunday.

“I cannot express how far-reaching [the impact of] this church fire is.”

Beyers said that the church was a "vital resource" to many communities within the area and the city of Toronto as a whole. He said that the church was a place for worship as well as music and arts events, weddings, funerals, dinners, and other events.

The church was built between 1907 and 1908 and was designated as a heritage easement by the city in 1996. It was also designated a National Historic Site that same year.

According to St. Anne's website, the church’s interior design was commissioned by J.E.H. MacDonald, a founding member of the Group of Seven. He enlisted several other artists, including Fred Varley and Frank Carmichael, who later became part of the Group of Seven.

Parks Canada described the "cycle of paintings" at St. Anne's Anglican Church as a blend of "narrative scenes, written texts, and decorative plasterwork and detailing that accentuate the architectural lines of the building." This work was seen as a "manifestation of the Arts and Crafts movement, which sought to ally architecture with the sister arts of painting and sculpture."

“This is the only church that featured artwork by members of the Group of Seven, and I’m sorry to say, but that’s been lost from what I can see,” Beyers said, calling the fire "heartbreaking."

"Not only was the art important, but the church itself was important architecturally. It was one of the rare Anglican churches that was in the Byzantine style, an Eastern Christian style."

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