Fire at private home of B.C. Lt.-Gov. 'clearly arson'
The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, February 1, 2009 10:07PM EST
VANCOUVER - Police say a fire that gutted the private home of B.C. Lt.-Gov. Steven Point overnight Sunday was arson.
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Peter Thiessen said Point and his family were not at their home on the Skowkale First Nation reserve in the Fraser Valley city of Chilliwack and firefighters who responded to the early morning call suspected immediately it was intentionally set.
"Further investigation indicated that yes, it certainly was suspicious; in fact it was clearly arson," Thiessen said in an interview.
Thiessen said police can't yet release details that support their conclusion but said they have clear evidence that points to arson.
The Skowkale are part of the Sto:lo Nation.
Sto:lo Grand Chief Doug Kelly said he has been told the home's video-security system captured someone fleeing the property at the time of the fire.
Thiessen could not confirm whether the home had video surveillance equipment but said any available recordings would be reviewed.
The fire caused considerable heat and smoke damage inside the home and little is salvageable, Thiessen said, but the structure is intact.
Sto:lo Grand Chief Clarence Pennier said a relative of one of his staff members viewed burned home.
"One of my workers, her cousin went over and figured that they had started fires around the house," he said.
Police are interviewing neighbours and Point's wife, Gwendolyn Point, came to the fire scene to talk with police.
"She's visibly shaken and upset and is attempting to assist us as well in regards to any possible motive and what information she can provide to help us move forward," said Thiessen.
Some 20 investigators, including First Nations RCMP officers who work on the reserve, now are working on the case, he said.
Both Kelly and Pennier said they were puzzled why Point's home would be the target of an arsonist.
"It's pretty strange anyway to have somebody do that to him," said Pennier.
"He's well respected and he's one of our spiritual people too. He helps a lot of people. I can't understand it either."
While Point is often away, Gwendolyn Point and other family members are usually there, he said.
"His wife is home more than him and their daughter is regularly over there taking care of the house," said Pennier.
Gwendolyn Point is an instructor on aboriginal studies at the University College of the Fraser Valley.
Kelly said when the couple is away, his daughter Christine and her husband normally looked after the home.
Point, a lawyer, former provincial court judge and former Grand Chief of the Sto:lo Tribal Council, was appointed British Columbia's first aboriginal lieutenant-governor in September 2007 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Before his appointment, Point was head of the B.C. Treaty Commission.
On his installation to the vice-regal post, Point promised to be an advocate for education and reconciliation between aboriginal and non-native residents of British Columbia.
"Reconciliation is not just a legal term, but rather it has far reaching implications for everyone," the soft-spoken Point said.
Point has four children and 11 grandchildren.