Guilty plea in Grouard church arson

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

One of two High Prairie men charged in connection with a fire that heavily damaged a historic Catholic church in Grouard one year ago has pleaded guilty to a charge of arson.

Gerald Kenneth Capot made the plea in Court of King’s Bench in Peace River on May 21, on what was to be the first day of his trial.

Capot was 50 when he was charged with setting fire to St. Bernard’s Mission on May 22, 2023. He was also charged with breaking and entering to commit theft.

The court will set Capot’s sentencing date on Aug. 30.

The damage to the church from the fire was such that it was eventually torn down.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Randy Ferguson was sentenced to 90 days after pleading guilty to breaking and entering on May 21. Ferguson was also placed on probation for 12 months. One condition of the probation is that he “engage” with the priest of St. Bernard’s Church, in order to express remorse for what he did.

According to the RCMP, the fire at the 121-year-old building was reported at about 3:30 a.m. on May 21 of last year. The church contained many historical and unique items, including paintings by the first missionary bishop of the region, Emile Grouard.

The church was completed in 1902. It is regarded as an example of Bishop Grouard’s dedication to God, his love of nature and respect for the local people.

St. Bernard’s Church after the May 21, 2023 fire.

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