Within the past year two fires have destroyed beloved organizations in Kanesatake. The blaze last Monday that left Kanehsatake CrossFit in ashes was devastating to those who used the gym and thought of it as a second home. (Courtesy Isabelle Nicholas)
“We lost the best thing Kanesatake had,” said Pilates instructor Kaniehtawaks Lauder, hours after the gym she trained, worked and taught in, Kanehsatake CrossFit, burned to the ground Monday morning.
Calls came into the Surete du Quebec shortly after 4:30 a.m. March 4, and responding officers quickly realized they would need assistance.
“We had to call for additional help since we had no access to water sources,” said SQ lieutenant Benoit Graveline.
The Point Calumet Fire Department was called, along with Mirabel’s crew, who put the fire out by 10:30 a.m.
By then, however, the building was totally destroyed.
“It was a total loss,” said Graveline. “Nothing was left when the flames were extinguished.”
An investigation is underway with the SQ to find out more about the blaze, which has been deemed suspicious.
For those that used the gym, however, the damage is done.
“It was the only good thing in town. Everyone else comes here for cigarettes or weed,” said Lauder.
Lauder joined the roughly 40 athletes the night after the fire at the local high school gym to workout, band together and begin healing and planning.
“We work hard to produce our dreams,” Mike David posted publicly on Facebook, in support of CrossFit co-owners Julie Anne David (his sister) and her partner Matty Simon.
“We literally started from nothing and built it into something that’s just a little better. We are constantly trying to learn more and figure out ways to do it better. We are very competitive.
“We try to express it in a healthy way by focusing on ourselves and try to improve who we were yesterday, and then do a little better today. We learned yesterday that some people find that threatening,” he continued.
“They see the tip of the iceberg- nice vehicles, multiple businesses, pretty buildings, a great team working with us, healthy minds and bodies. But this view is very selective.
“They choose to not see the years of sacrifice, failure, tough workouts, restrictive meal plans, wrong choices and bad investments, burnouts, conflict, hiring and firing people to find that great team, not paying attention to loved ones, seminars, hired coaching, 16 hour work days, 7 day work weeks, working on xmas, New Years and holidays, trying to stay motivated on days you don’t feel like it, 500+ business and psychology books read, endless studying, investing a lot in personal development, self doubt and of course, stressful sleepless nights,” David wrote.
“The people that are behind this thought they would even the playing field by sabotaging someone else. But it doesn’t work like that.
“We’ll rebuild and have learned a lesson in the process – making us stronger and even more resilient. It’ll take you 15+ years to build the same skills and knowledge as us.
“Sorry f*ckers, there’s no shortcut to success. It’s a hard long road with many bumps. This is just another one for us.”
CrossFit staff and members have no plans of letting the cross fit community die in the ashes of the fire.
Manager Patricia Gabriel said classes would continue at a temporary location while management figures out the next steps to rebuild.
“Our main focus right now is moving forward and how we’re going to find a temporary location for our members, for our athletes,” she said.
“We’ve received so much support in so little time and so many kind words from people. We all share the same values. We’re a big family, so we’re all holding each other up and moving forward.”
A gofundme campaign is underway to rebuild the business, and the goal is $800,000, as the gym did not have insurance and will need to rebuild from scratch.
“Just a weighted vest costs $300, and that’s not even essential equipment,” said Lauder. “What’s ridiculous is that we literally just finished the renovations and expansions. We were finished this week. Today (Monday) we were going to walk into a new gym.”
The gym was thriving, hosting its first CrossFit competition in mid-February, and was in the midst of planning for its two-year anniversary next week.
It’s the second suspicious fire in Kanesatake that has resulted in an important building being lost in under a year.
In early July, the community watched with heartache as the youth centre building went up in flames and was completely destroyed.
Weeks ago, the Medicine Box was also targeted by suspected arson.
Mohawk Council of Kanesatake grand chief Serge Otsi Simon disagrees with the assessment that the fire was caused by an electrical mishap, and fundraising is currently underway to rebuild a state-of-the-art youth centre to replace the old one. Simon said council is around $600,000 short of having enough to start construction on a new building.
He feels the federal government has to step up to the plate and help his community.
“I’m still blaming the federal government for a lot of the damages we’re seeing these days because we’ve been after them for several years for another Mohawk police force,” said Simon.
With a police force and fire department on territory, Simon feels crime would go down and mobilization would speed up significantly.
“Our police force would be continuously patrolling our community,” said Simon. “It won’t stop anybody from committing acts of arson, but it will limit it.”
Kaniehtawaks and her sister Jadyn were both actively involved in the youth centre in addition to the gym, and are incredibly frustrated with what’s going on in their community.
“We can’t have anything good here,” said Lauder.
The CrossFit community was extremely close, and Gabriel was upbeat despite Monday’s tragedy.
“It’s unfortunate that this is where we are right now, but we’re just looking forward, towards the future, and rebuilding,” she said. “We’ve built a family and we’re very close-knit. You walk in and there’s nothing but smiles and positivity. That’s how we’re going to keep it.”
Having the centre meant volumes to those that used the gym, bistro, health food bar and general meeting place, she added.
“It means everything to us,” said Gabriel. “It’s the one place that everybody gathered, and we all shared the same interest and goals.
“We all have our unique stories as to why we joined Kanehsatake CrossFit, and as to why we continued, and everybody shares their individual stories and individual ties to why they joined, and why they’re there and why we keep going,” she said.
“We’re all in it together.”