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Ukrainian Canadian Congress calls on police to investigate Victoria arson attack as hate crime

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The Ukrainian Canadian Congress says an arson attack on the home of a Ukrainian family in Victoria should be investigated as a hate crime.

The national advocacy group says Wednesday's fire at the home of a Ukrainian Catholic priest and his family may have been motivated by Father Yuriy Vyshnevskyy's support for Ukraine amid Russia's ongoing war in the country.

Vyshnevskyy, his wife and three daughters narrowly escaped their Caledonia Avenue home in the early hours of Wednesday morning after the pastor says someone poured gasoline through the mail slot into the front room and set it on fire.

The pastor's eldest daughter, 11, sustained injuries from broken glass after she and her sisters fled the fire by leaping from an upstairs window into their father's arms.

"It was hell," Vyshnevskyy told CTV News. "It was hell because I knew that it was the only window out. It was the only way out."

All five family members were treated for smoke inhalation. Their cat was found unresponsive but later resuscitated by firefighters.

Their home is on the property of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, where Vyshnevskyy is the pastor.

"We call on law enforcement to fully, promptly and thoroughly investigate this heinous crime against five innocent people," the Ukrainian congress, which represents the interests of approximately 1.4 million Ukrainian-Canadians, said in a statement.

"Given that Father Vyshnevskyy is a dedicated community leader who through his work is strongly supporting the Ukrainian people and their defence of their homeland from Russia’s genocidal war, we call on local authorities to investigate this attack as a hate crime," the congress added.

'WHO COULD HAVE DONE THIS?'

Victoria police said Wednesday they are investigating whether the arson attack was hate motivated, but said it's too early in the investigation to determine a motive.

"There has been some questions surrounding this, given the structure's proximity to a Ukrainian Catholic church," Victoria police spokesperson Const. Cam MacIntyre said.

"Sometimes there is simply an arsonist that is in the community," he added. "Other times these incidents are targeted. It's too early in the investigation for us to say."

Vyshnevskyy said Thursday he still doesn't know who could have set fire to his home with his family inside, or why.

"I thought about this many times," the pastor said. "Who could have done this and what reasons? Still I don’t have the answer. I don’t know."

Investigators are asking anyone who has surveillance video from the area on the night of the attack to contact police immediately.

"Our goal in this is to locate a suspect, or suspects, and arrest them," MacIntyre said. "We have some information but we need more."

An online fundraiser for the family had raised more than $15,000 by Thursday morning.

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