Police are investigating after part of a monument to children who died in residential schools went up in flames early Tuesday.
At approximately 3 a.m., police responded to a report from a private security company of a small fire outside St. Augustine of Canterbury Catholic church, police say. A "small household-type decoration" was in flames.
Police say the decoration was part of the "Every Child Matters" memorial, which was erected on the steps of the church after hundreds of unmarked graves were found at residential schools across the country.
The fire was extinguished by security, but police are now investigating.
Brandon police public information officer Sgt. Kirby Sararas said the fire is suspicious as there is no explanation for the item catching fire.
"It is believed to have been intentionally done and the motive behind why it was intentionally done is unclear," she said.
"In light of current events in Canada and just the nature of what’s been happening, it prompted us to open up an investigation into the burning of this particular item at a church."
When the Sun visited on Tuesday afternoon there were scorch marks visible on the stone at the top of the church’s front steps off Lorne Avenue. Bits of burned orange string were scattered on the steps, but it was unclear what the burned item was.
Several pairs of shoes that are part of the monument were left on the lower stairs undamaged.
A sign posted on the railing says the memorial was placed there "in memorial of all the Indigenous children who died at Residential Schools and for the families and communities who are grieving their loss."
"We grieve with you. We are sorry this happened to you," it reads.
The sign encourages people to pause at the monument and tie and orange ribbon on the wreath of reconciliation.
The Sun reached out to St. Augustine’s for comment on Tuesday but was told Pastor John Okosun was away.
Christian Martinez, the director of communication services for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, said the Archdiocese was unable to comment.
"Unfortunately, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg has no comment on this incident at this time. We are unaware of the details of the incident and so couldn’t give you an informed/good comment," an email from Martinez read.
Anyone with information regarding the alleged arson is asked to contact Brandon Police Service at 204-729-2345 or brandon.ca/police-contact/police-contact.
No arrests had been made as of Tuesday.
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