Two High Prairie men charged in connection with a fire that heavily damaged an historic Catholic Church in Grouard on May 22 are ready to move their case to a higher court.

Gerald Kenneth Capot, 50, was released on bail during a bail hearing that started July 31 in High Prairie Court of Justice and adjourned to Red Earth Court of Justice on Aug. 1.

Capot and his lawyer, C. McMahon, requested release to allow the accused to attend a residential treatment program in Grande Prairie.

Kenneth Randy Ferguson, 56, did not request a bail hearing.

Both men were charged with arson of property of others, and break-and-enter to commit theft after fire heavily damaged the St. Bernard Mission Church. The building contained many historical and unique items, including paintings by the first missionary bishop of the region, Bishop Emile Grouard.

The church at Grouard was completed in 1902.

Matters for both men were set over to Sept. 1 in the Court of King’s Bench for arraignment.

Lawyer Derek Renzini spoke as an agent for Ferguson’s lawyer, Dallas Gelineau, in High Prairie July 31. Ferguson elected to be tried by a justice alone in Court of King’s Bench without a preliminary inquiry and set the matter to Sept. 1 in Peace River.

Arraignment is an appearance to give the accused an opportunity to enter a plea or set a date for trial.

An RCMP news release says police responded to a report of a fire at the church around 3:30 p.m.

“Preliminary investigation indicates it is suspicious in nature,” said Const. Julie-Ann Strilaiff, Media Relations Officer, Peace Regional RCMP.

Capot and Ferguson were charged May 23.

Big Lakes County Fires Services responded to the call with crews from Grouard, Enilda and Joussard. The High Prairie Fire Department also responded.

Capot was granted bail after agreeing to several conditions. He will be released Aug. 27 in order to directly attend the Northern Alberta Addictions Centre in Grande Prairie. If he is removed from or leaves the residential treatment centre, he must turn himself in to the nearest RCMP detachment and be held until he is brought before a judicial officer to determine whether or not he can be released.

Except when in court or through legal counsel, Capot must have no contact or communication directly or indirectly (including face-to-face or by means of text, e-mail or social media, or through a third party) with Ferguson.

Capot must not attend or be within 100 metre of the hamlet of Grouard.

He must not carry or have in his possession any weapons (including knives and bear spray) or imitation weapons while outside his residence; however, tools while used on his job site or utensils used while preparing or eating food are exceptions.

Capot must not purchase, possess, use or consume alcohol not prescribed for him by a doctor or dentist and he is forbidden from attending or entering any licensed premises (including liquor stores and bars) where the primary is the sale of alcohol.

Other conditions too numerous to mention were also imposed.

by Richard Froese

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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