A Nanaimo man has been arrested in what police called a targeted fire that was set at a home of a Ukrainian pastor and his family last year.
The suspect was arrested by Victoria police’s major crime detectives on Wednesday (April 5) and charged with one count of arson with disregard for human life. He’s being held in custody to appear in court.
“Investigators determined that this was a targeted offence, in which the accused was known to the family, but it was not motivated by hatred towards an identifiable group,” VicPD said in a Thursday statement.
Five family members were in the Caledonia Avenue home when the fire started on April 20, 2022. Four were uninjured in the blaze, but one of the three daughters was cut on some broken glass as she escaped from an upper-floor window and the wife of the pastor had to be rescued by firefighters from outside a second-floor window.
Firefighters also had to revive the family’s cat with a pet oxygen mask.
When first responders arrived at the scene, they found the front doorway area and upper level of the home engulfed in flames.
Gasoline was poured through the mail slot, prompting the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to call on police to investigate the fire as a hate crime at the time of the incident.
At the time, the organization noted the pastor 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.” The pastor was affiliated with the Ukrainian Catholic Church of St. Nicholas that’s adjacent to the home.
The day after the fire, then-Premier John Horgan said it was unknown if the fire was connected to the pastor’s faith and ethnicity, but said all British Columbians stood with the family “in unison, saying with one voice, we’re with you and we’re here to help.”
Police said they won’t be releasing more information now that the incident is before the courts and noted the affected family has asked for privacy.
With files from the Canadian Press
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