Arsonist who set seven fires in Nanaimo, Saanich, Victoria sentenced to six years

Arsonist gets six years

A man convicted of setting seven fires in Nanaimo, Saanich and Victoria has been sentenced to six years in jail.

Edwin Vikash Singh pleaded guilty to setting seven fires over the course of six months in 2023. The fires damaged vehicles at three locations, and merchandise in a Nanaimo Walmart that led to a multi-day closure of the store, a $1.8-million loss of merchandise and lost sales, Crown prosecutor Paul Cheeseman said during Singh’s sentencing.

Singh set the first fire in the diaper aisle of the Woodgrove Centre Walmart in February 2023. The following month he set fire to a Toyota Matrix at a Nanaimo auto repair shop, and in June, he lit a Ford Explorer on fire at Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Victoria. A police officer driving by shortly after the fire started quickly extinguished the flames, Cheeseman said.

On July 12, Singh set two fires in Victoria, setting ablaze wood pallets at a cleaning supply business and a Mercedes convertible at a car dealership, which destroyed the car and spread to a nearby vehicle, resulting in a $94,000 loss to the business, he said.

In mid-August, Singh set two fires over three days in the parking lot of a Saanich Staples store, Cheeseman said. At that point, he was being watched by police, who saw him set the two fires and extinguished them.

During an undercover operation, Singh told an undercover officer that he set fires when he was bored to see if he could get away with it, Cheeseman said.

No one was hurt in the fires, but they caused significant damage to businesses, he said.

In a joint submission, Cheeseman and defence counsel said six years was the appropriate sentence for Singh.

Provincial court Judge Tamara Hodge agreed to the suggested sentence, saying she is bound to accept joint submissions except in rare cases in which acceptance would lead reasonable people to believe the justice system has broken down.

Aggravating factors included the large number of fires set, the amount of damage done by the fires, Singh’s lengthy criminal record, the fact that he was on probation and on bail at the time of the fires, and that he continued to set fires after seeing the damage they could cause, Hodge said.

“All the fires could have been catastrophic as fires are very unpredictable and easily spread,” she said.

His guilty plea, which saved the court what would have been a lengthy trial, and the remorse he expressed were mitigating factors, she said.

Singh, who has 53 prior convictions, told the court he understood the seriousness of his actions.

“It was clear from listening to him that he is looking for assistance to deal with his underlying issues,” Hodge said.

Born in Fiji, Singh came to Canada with his grandmother in 1991 at 11 years old, and was kicked out of his uncle’s home at age 13 and started living on the street, she said. He struggles with childhood trauma and an addiction to crystal methamphetamine, and told the court he was on the drug at the time of the fires, Hodge said.

Singh will receive nine months’ credit for time served and has a remaining sentence of five years and three months. He is required to provide a DNA sample.

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