Ten months after a fire struck a southeast Calgary church, most of the repairs have been completed at the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church.
The fire on the evening of July 4, 2021, came just after in-person religious services were able to return after pandemic-related restrictions.
“We just came back from COVID. We were happy we could come here to have worship again,” pastor Thai Nguyen said.
Rebuilding from the fire cost the church $600,000, he said.
“Everything burned to char and looked very black. But now you can sit here,” the pastor said.
Security measures like cameras or fencing were not included in the rebuild.
But newly expanded funding from the province means Nguyen could help protect the church that has seen many break-ins.
On Wednesday, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro announced the province was expanding its Alberta Security Infrastructure Program, allowing organizations targeted by hate and bias-motivated crimes to be reimbursed for security expenses.
Professional security risk assessments from certified experts can be reimbursed for up to $10,000. Another $25,000 is available for installing mitigation and countermeasures from that assessment. Previously, only planned future expenses were available for provincial grants.
The provincial government has also removed application deadlines and expanded the program to $5 million from $2 million.
“These changes will make it possible to help more organizations and more people than ever before,” Shandro said. “Unfortunately, we’re still seeing more and more requests for grants coming through because of a deplorable increase of hate crimes.”
Shandro recounted the latest targets — two Edmonton mosques being sent threatening packages during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“This is unacceptable and it has no place in our province. We must take action against bigotry and racial violence,” he said.
In addition to religious organizations and places of worship having access to these funds, private educational institutions and other facilities serving vulnerable groups can also receive the grants.
Shandro said feedback from the first group of applicants when the program was first announced in June 2021 led his ministry to provide better assistance for organizations to complete and submit their applications.
He added the applications would be processed as soon as possible.
The Vietnamese Alliance church used to have security cameras, and the footage from that previous system helped Nguyen track threats and glean potential motives.
“Some guy sat over (there) for an hour before he used a rock to break the window and then he just ran away,” the pastor said.
And a fence would help deter any bad actors.
“It’s too easy to come here and break-in,” Nguyen said. “If we had a good fence, it would be better.”
To date, $1.2 million has been provided to 110 organizations provincewide.
–with files from Jill Croteau, Global News
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