Ceremony reunites native pupils

Published March 1, 2006

The main dormitory building at the former Anglican Indian residential school in La Tuque, Que., which had fallen into disrepair, was demolished in early February. A number of former students from northern Quebec Cree communities gathered for the demolition.

Mary Coon, a former student and counselor at La Tuque, participated in ceremonies commemorating former pupils. The school’s former classroom building is now in use as a daycare facility and the daycare director, Christiane Morin, organized the commemoration and reunion.

Ms. Coon told the CBC that the event allowed native people to “think about how we’ve come a long way. If we look at ourselves, where we are today, we’re a stronger people. A lot of people have gone through healing. We know how to write; we know how to speak English. Some of us know how to speak French. For those of us who went to residential school, it wasn’t all bad all the time.”

Ms. Morin also circulated a petition asking that the Anglican chapel on the site – which is near the former residence building – be preserved.

La Tuque opened in 1963 and was closed in 1978. Canon Jean-Maurice Bonnard, who is now 77, was principal and administrator at the school from 1968 to 1978. He attended the ceremony and, in a subsequent telephone interview, noted that the school has not been named in any of the abuse lawsuits filed in recent years.

Several former students told the CBC that the atmosphere at the school changed under Mr. Bonnard, becoming more “like a big family.” In the interview, Mr. Bonnard said that occurred as a result of his experience living in Indian communities in northern Ontario. “I saw how Indian parents bring up their children. They never spank them. When I came to the school, I was shown the strap and I said, ‘What is that for?’ They said, ‘to strap the bad children.’ I was horrified and I never did it. The other thing was, I let the boys grow their hair. I thought, why not?”

La Tuque was once part of a nationwide system of boarding schools aimed at educating native children. In recent years, hundreds of natives have sued the federal government and the various churches that ran the schools, alleging physical and sexual abuse, and several former staff have been convicted of criminal charges.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

Keep on reading

Skip to content