Congress of Ukrainian Canadians calls on police to investigate attack as a hate crime

An organization representing Ukrainian Canadians is calling on police to investigate the arson attack on a Victoria pastor’s home as a targeted hate crime.

In the early hours of Wednesday, April 20, Father Yuriy Vyshnevskyy says his wife heard a noise on the porch of their Fernwood home and when she investigated, she saw gasoline pouring into the mail slot of his house.

A fire broke out as she ran upstairs to wake her husband and the family of five narrowly escaped, with one of the couple’s young daughters suffering a severe cut from shattered glass while that she was jumping from the second floor.

Victoria Police have called the arson an arson but have so far refused to say what its motivation was or whether it was inspired by anti-Ukrainian sentiment amid the invasion of its neighboring country by Russia.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which coordinates and represents the interests of the country’s 1.4 million Ukrainian-Canadians, suggested the pastor was likely targeted for his work in the community.

“We call on law enforcement to fully, promptly and thoroughly investigate this heinous crime against five innocent people,” the organization said on its website. “Given that Father Vyshnevskyy is a dedicated community leader who, through his work, strongly supports the people of Ukraine and their defense of their homeland against Russia’s genocidal war, we call on local authorities to investigate this attack as a hate crime.”

Congress has said it stands ready to offer any help it can as the family recovers from the devastating attack.

Vyshnevskyy told CHEK News on Wednesday that he had received no threats before the fire and did not know if the motivation was personal or related to the war in Ukraine.

“Who would want to burn the family, with the children, while they sleep?” he said.

const. Cam MacIntyre, spokesman for Victoria Police, said they had not yet ruled out it was a hate crime.

“There have been questions about it, given the structure’s proximity to a Ukrainian Catholic church, very close, there’s a connection between the family and the church,” MacIntyre said. “Obviously something we are looking at. There is nothing clear to indicate the motive at this point other than the fact that it was arson.

Vyshnevskyy and his family are staying with parishioners because the house is not habitable.

Canada helps website accepts donations for the pastor and his family through St. Nicholas Parish of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Anyone making a donation is asked to specify that it is for the Vyshnevskyy family.

A GoFundMe campaign was also launched to help the Vyshnevskyy family.

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