Firefighters battle a rectory fire at St. Bernard Church in Digby County, N.S. Photo from Brighton and Barton Volunteer Fire Department

RCMP say Nova Scotia rectory fire ‘suspicious’

  • January 17, 2024

Meteghan RCMP have opened an arson investigation after deeming a rectory fire next to the former St. Bernard Church in Digby County, N.S., to be “suspicious in nature.”

According to an RCMP press release, police and fire services arrived on the scene after 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 14 to discover “an unoccupied residence fully engulfed in flames.” The probe into the blaze will be led by Meteghan RCMP and assisted by the Yarmouth/Clare Street Crime Enforcement Unit.

St. Bernard, an 81-year-old house of worship that was deconsecrated by the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth in 2022 and later bought by Nation Prospère Acadie and la Société Héritage Saint-Bernard, was not damaged.

Jean LeBlanc, president of the historical society, told local media “that embers landed on the roof, but luckily the roof was wet from all the rain, so it put them out.” LeBlanc added that the church smelled of smoke throughout the day.

The now-destroyed rectory, a stone-clad building, was actively used as a residence for 70 years after it opened in January 1952. LeBlanc lamented its loss.

“It’s sad to lose it because it’s the local people who paid for it. It was quite unique the way it was built because it had a flat roof and most of the buildings around here don’t.”

Last August, The Catholic Register reported that the two entities co-owning the former church are continuing a $2.5-million fundraising campaign to restore the parish so it can be ensured a long-term future. Repairs alone are estimated to cost in excess of $1.3 million. Some of the required fixes included retrofitting the heat and electrical systems, fixing interior water damage and repairing the exterior mortar.

The grand plan is for St. Bernard to be utilized in some fashion during the forthcoming 2024 Acadian Congress in southwest Nova Scotia from Aug. 10 to 18.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact Meteghan RCMP at (902) 645-2326. Anonymous tips are welcome via Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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