Fears that T.O. arson linked to Sri Lanka war
Emergency officials say they suspect an overnight fire at a Buddhist temple in Scarborough was the result of an arsonist, raising concerns the incident may be linked to violence in Sri Lanka.
Police said in a news release Saturday that suspects broke into the unoccupied building and used an accelerant to start a fire just inside the door of the Toronto Maha Vihara Temple, at 4698 Kingston Road.
Police say investigators also found evidence of an accelerant outside the building where a second fire was ignited.
Fire crews were called to the scene at around 4:30 a.m. When they arrived they saw a fire around the entrance of the building, said Fire Services Capt. David Eckerman, but fire crews managed to put out the blaze within minutes, preventing further damage to the temple.
Damage to the building is estimated to be more than $10,000. Eckerman told ctvtoronto.ca that no one was injured as a result of the fire.
The Ontario Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the incident.
Calls to the Maha Vihara temple went unanswered Saturday morning but the Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada said in a news release Saturday that several artifacts and images of Buddha were damaged in the fire.
They said that Buddhist temples in Europe have recently been targeted by groups associated with the Tamil Tigers -- a group engaged in a civil war with the Sri Lankan government.
On May 10 a Buddhist temple in France that is frequented by the Sri Lankan Buddhist community was also damaged in an attack.
The fire in Scarborough took place just hours before Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels in their 25-year civil war.
His declaration of victory came as the Sri Lankan military took control of the country's northeastern coastline and isolated the rebel Tigers to a tiny pocket.
Toronto's Tamil community have taken to the streets over the past several months to protest what they are calling a humanitarian crisis against their people in Sri Lanka.
On Saturday morning, a crowd of Tamil protesters had gathered outside the U.S. Consulate on University Avenue to protest the violent civil war.
Staff Sgt. Peter Callaghan, with Toronto police 52 Division, said the crowd outside the Consulate has been orderly despite the developments overseas.
"It's a small crowd and it's under control," he told ctvtoronto.ca. "We're constantly monitoring the situation and all contingencies are being looked at."