Police ID suspect in Weston church fire
Joshua Freeman, CTV News Toronto
Published Sunday, April 16, 2017 11:38AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 16, 2017 7:33PM EDT
Toronto police have identified and released security camera images of a suspect wanted in connection with a fire they say was deliberately set at a church in the Weston area.
Easter services were cancelled at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church after a small fire broke out there early this morning.
Neil MacCarthy, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Toronto, told CP24 Sunday morning that a flammable device was thrown through a window of the church.
“It appears that someone threw a flammable device through a window into the church at about 7:30 this morning,” MacCarthy said. “A small fire erupted. Thankfully no one was inside the church so no one was injured and the device kind of extinguished itself after some time.”
Firefighters responded to the church with six trucks at around 8:05 a.m. after staff discovered smoke in the building when they arrived to prepare for mass. The fire was quickly put out, with no injuries reported.
“We found the fire just inside the one window and an accelerant was found on-scene,” District Fire Chief Mike Lester told reporters.
He said a window was broken from the outside and the fire, which burned itself out before firefighters arrived, was contained to a small area.
Lester estimated damage at around $5,000.
Police identified the suspect Saturday night as 43-year-old Marc Porlier.
While Toronto police said the fire appears to have been deliberately set, Toronto Fire Services said they are still waiting for investigators to determine exactly what type of device caused the fire.
While the fire was put out quickly, MacCarthy said services will nevertheless have to be cancelled today and the church will likely be closed for several days.
“There’s still some damage inside the church,” he said. “There’s not going to be any Easter services here this morning and there’ll be some assessment of the damage and we’ll see how soon we can reopen the church.”
He added that the incident is very upsetting for worshippers as it comes on a holy day when they were looking forward to taking part in services.
“The short-term problem is people showing up for this joyful celebration on Easter Sunday are going to see firetrucks and police cars and that’s certainly a really sad statement,” MacCarthy said.
Parishioners who spoke with CP24 called the incident “shocking” and said they have never seen something like this happen at their church before. Some said they would now have to scramble to find another service to attend elsewhere.
Speaking with CP24, Cardinal Thomas Collins called the incident “sad.”
“It’s just a very sad sign of our times and very disturbing,” Collins said.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact police at 416-808-1200 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).