St. Anne’s residential school

I’ve posted a lot about Irish industrial “schools” but not much about the Canadian version. That was negligent. From CTV News last January:

For the past year and a half, lawyer Fay Brunning has been fighting to get the federal government to hand over documents about the St. Anne’s residential school.

It’s a school that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a judge described as having the worst cases of abuse out of any residential school in Canada. Brunning, who represents survivors, says they were taken away from their parents at age five or six for 10 months a year. They were forced to eat vomit, subjected to sexual and physical abuse and put in an electric chair.


The little ones first,” recalls Edmund Metatawabin to the Wawatay News in July. “And I was, I think, about number seven or eight, meaning I was one of the smaller ones.”

The children sat on a wooden seat with their arms strapped to a metal chair. A Brother held a wooden box with a crank ready to send the electric charge.

“Your feet is flying around in front of you, and that was funny for the missionaries,” Metatawabin says. “So all you hear is that jolt of electricity and your reaction, and laughter (of the Catholic school administrators) at the same time. We all took turns sitting on it.”

Catholic school administrators. These are the people who think they have the right to reject secular laws, and demand exemptions from laws that apply to everyone else, in order to harm women who need contraception. These are the people who think they are morally better than everyone else.

St. Anne’s is in Fort Albany in northern Ontario. It was open from 1904 to 1976 and had hundreds of aboriginal children from remote James Bay communities walk through its doors. A police probe from the 1990s turned up evidence of horrific abuse, including an electric chair. A government had said Ottawa received the documents from police on an undertaking they would not be passed on to anyone. Ontario Superior Court Judge Paul Perell says the government misinterpreted its obligations and should turn over the more than 7,000 records to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The reports must also be turned over to the Independent Assessment Process, an out-of-court process for the resolution of claims of abuses suffered at residential schools.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt told Kevin Newman Live in an email the government is “pleased that the court clarified we can now disclose St. Anne’s residential school documents, and, now that we have the court’s permission, we will do so.” His office declined to answer any follow-up questions.

In Ireland it was children of single mothers and poor families. In Canada it was aboriginal aka First Nations children. It’s always someone. There always has to be someone to be the receptacle for sadistic impulses. How interesting that it keeps being the Catholic church that is in charge of the sadism.


  1. says

    As a matter of full disclosure, the Anglicans ran a lot of these, too. But also as a matter of full disclosure, I’m not as current as I probably should be on how the levels of sadism actually compared.

  2. opposablethumbs says

    I’m sure Pope Frank is going to call for full disclosure of any and all records of these crimes that are now under his jurisdiction or influence … any. Minute. Now.

  3. says

    Oh, no. The pope is much too busy to speak out about this. He’s far too busy fooling people into thinking he’s accomplishing anything with his PR campaign.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    In the US, it was Indian Boarding Schools, which were almost exclusively run by Christians. Remember the old “Kill the Indian to save the man” rhetoric? Children kidnapped from their families, shipped long distances away so they couldn’t find their way home if they escaped, and used as slave labor and sex slaves by these gooood Christians, who made a profit farming them out for day labor and to pedophile rings.

    Note that these children were deprived of being parented, so upon their release, they returned home, unable to speak their relatives’ language, and without any skills to use when they themselves became parents. A brutally effective way to wipe out entire cultures, and don’t think for a moment that wasn’t the goal.

    In Canada, the counterparts were the Indian Residential Schools. The last one still operating closed in 1996. You read that right – less than 20 years ago, this holocaust was still going on. In some of these schools, the mortality rates were around 60% – these kids weren’t even given anything close to adequate medical care or even nutrition. In the US, these boarding schools reached their peak enrollment in 1973, some 60,000 children. By 2007, 9,500 indigenous children were still attending these boarding schools. In Australia, aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and shipped off to similar boarding schools, to teach the children to be Christians, to absorb European cultural norms, and to speak English, to be trained to be white people’s servants and laborers. This was still going on into the 1990s. The movie “Rabbit Proof Fence” (2002) is the story of three young related girls who are thus kidnapped, who escape and navigate their way 1,500 miles home along the rabbit-proof fence, pursued by trackers who are intent on returning them to the boarding schools (prisons). They are part of what is sometimes referred to as “The Stolen Generations”. One of the girls died – she was captured during the escape and never returned home. One of the girls escaped TWICE. She went on to have two daughters – one was taken from her at 3 years old and she never saw her again.

    It’s all the product of European Christian imperialism. Yet more evidence of religions’ poisonous effects on humanity.

  5. A Hermit says

    The residential school in my hometown didn’t completely shut down until 1973 (when I was in middle school.) They didn’t actually teach there by then, but native kids from the north were shipped off to live there and bussed to local schools. I remember those kids, and their isolation (which I undoubtedly contributed to at the time.) I thought they didn’t want to have anything to do with white kids like me and believed the stories I heard about them being violent and dangerous; looking back (with shame) I now know they were just frightened, lonely little kids hundreds of miles from home surrounded by strangers.

    The residential school system is a blot on Canada’s history as dark as any Apartheid or Southern segregationist policy.

  6. Blanche Quizno says

    Just as poor black populations have been used as human guinea pigs for drug and pathogen testing (see the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment), native children have likewise been used for everything from vaccine trials to radiation studies, all without their consent. Read a bit about it here:

    After WWII, the US conducted massive nuclear testing, including the most powerful bomb ever exploded (Castle Bravo), around the Marshall Islands, without evacuating the natives. Now, they have severe health and reproductive difficulties, to the point that several populations have decided to go extinct – to no longer attempt to reproduce.

    Lijon Eknilang of the Marshall Islands explains her experience with the effect of nuclear radiation. “I cannot have children. I have had miscarriages on seven occasions. On one of those occasions, the child I miscarried was severely deformed – it had only one eye…Our culture and religion teaches us that reproductive abnormalities are a sign that women have been unfaithful. For this reason, many of my friends keep quiet about the strange births they have had. In privacy, they give birth, not to children as we like to think of them, but to things we could only describe as “octopuses,” “apples,” “turtles,” and other things in our experience. We do not have Marshallese words for these kinds of babies, because they were never born before the radiation came. Women on Rongelap, Likiek, Ailuk, and other atolls in the Marshall Islands have given birth to these “monster babies.” Many of these women are from atolls that foreign officials have told us were not affected by radiation. We know otherwise, because the health problems are similar to ours. One women on Likiep gave birth to a child with two heads. Her cat also gave birth to a kitten with two heads. There is a young girl on Ailuk today with no knees, three toes on each foot and a missing arm. The most common birth defects on Rongelap and nearby islands have been “jellyfish” babies. These babies are born with no bones in their bodies and with transparent skin. We can see their brains and hearts beating. The babies usually live for a day or two before they stop breathing. Many women die from abnormal pregnancies, and those who survive give birth to what looks like purple grapes that we quickly bury.”

    Between 1954 and 1958 one in three births on the Marshall Islands resulted in fetal death. Hepatitis B and liver cancer is approximately 30 times higher in the Marshall Islands than in the U.S. Cervical Cancer in women of the Marshall Islands is 60 times greater and rates of breast, lung, oral and gastrointestinal cancer are three to ten times greater than in the U.S. Life expectancy on the islands has sharply declined to 40 years. Some communities suffer so greatly as a result of these tests that they have decided to stop reproducing and go extinct.

  7. Blanche Quizno says

    @5 The residential school system is a blot on Canada’s history as dark as any Apartheid or Southern segregationist policy. – A Hermit

    Interesting factoid re: apartheid:

    [Malcolm X’s] plan (which he was unable to realize before his death) was to bring his case before the UN General Assembly and charge the United States with violating the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter itself, “for its refusal to bring a halt to the continued mistreatment of the 22 million black people in [the United States].” –

    One of the first steps we are going to become involved in as an Organization of Afro-American Unity will be to work with every leader and other organization in this country interested in a program designed to bring your and my problem before the United Nations. This is our first point of business. We feel that the problem of the black man in this country is beyond the ability of Uncle Sam to solve it. It’s beyond the ability of the United States government to solve it. The government itself isn’t capable of even hearing our problem, much less solving it. It’s not morally equipped to solve it.

    So we must take it out of the hands of the United States government. And the only way we can do this is by internationalizing it and taking advantage of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter on Human Rights, and on that ground bring it into the UN before a world body where in we can indict Uncle Sam for the continued criminal injustices that our people experience in this government. –

    I heard an excerpt of a speech given by Malcolm X where he said exactly this – how could we morally and ethically say anything to South Africa’s apartheid regime when our own segregated situation here in the US was just as bad? So of course he had to die. He was joining with workers’ rights groups and challenging the worldwide capitalist regime, and that could not be tolerated.

  8. Pen says

    Blanche @4 – One of the girls died in the Rabbit Proof Fence movie? Are you serious? Did you know that didn’t happen in the book? I’m really getting a little bit tired of movies making stuff up when they’re based on what everyone knows to be memoirs. Alternatively, maybe we should begin being much more suspicious about treating them as history.

    PS – did you know that the author of the original memoir was the daughter of the woman who escaped twice? She was the one who never saw her mother again after the second escape. Doris Pilkington pieced together the story with the help of her ‘aunties’, that is both the other two girls from the original escape.

  9. Jenora Feuer says

    Blanche @#6:

    While I’m definitely not saying it didn’t happen (I can, unfortunately, easily see some of that happening as we have too many similar examples already), do you have a cite that isn’t That place makes most conspiracy theorists look positively connected to reality.

    There is a ‘law’ on the net called Scopie’s Law: In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing as a credible source loses you the argument immediately… and gets you laughed out of the room.

  10. says

    Some religious types also liked to abuse white kids in Canada. The story of Mount Cashel Orphanage is probably the best known case. Then there was the case of the Ideal Maternity Home, immortalised in the book Butterbox Babies. As with First Nations victims the abusers took advantage of those society had marginalised, whose complains wouldn’t have been taken seriously, or who would have been blamed for their victimisation.

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