Canada vs. St. Anne’s Indian residential school survivor H-15019

One night the blind old man woke and told him to make space in the small hospital room because his brothers were coming.

So H-15019 moved the bed, television and chair around while the old man kept repeating, “Make room, my brothers are coming in.”

The old man was in the grip of his memories.

“That’s the only thing he kept saying, ‘Make room. My brothers are coming in.’ Okay, I just make room and then I lie him down after and he went back to sleep,” said H-15019, a survivor from St. Anne’s Indian residential school whose name can’t be revealed because of ongoing litigation.

H-15019 was working the graveyard shift at the hospital in Fort Albany, a First Nation that sits near the place where the Albany River flows into James Bay along Ontario’s northeastern coast. It was one of the few jobs in his life that he managed to hold down. He grew close to the old man who was a patient at the hospital. H-15019 would go into work a few hours before his shift to spend time talking with the old man. He would then return at shift’s end and welcome morning with the old man.

The old man would call H-15019 on the phone sometimes asking for pop, chips, cookies or cigarettes. H-15019 would always deliver the goods. Other times H-15019 would push the wheelchair around and the blind old man would pretend he could see trees and exclaim at their beauty.

“He felt like a grandfather. He would usually tell me stories about the old days too. I usually just listen to him talk about everything. That’s what I like doing, listening,” said H-15019, according to the transcript of his residential school compensation hearing for the abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest at St. Anne’s.

Read: Interview with St. Anne’s Indian Residential School Claimant K-10106: Betrayal, again

One morning, after the end of his hospital graveyard shift, H-15019 went to see the old man but the room was empty. He was told they’d sent the old man to Moose Factory because he was sick. The next day, H-15019 again asked how the old man was doing. His supervisor told him the old man died the night before.

“I felt like I lost my grandfather. I told my boss, ‘How come you didn’t tell me this? How come you didn’t give me a call when he passed away?’ And I told him to go ‘fuck themselves’ and I quit that day,” said H-15019, according to the transcript.

H-15019 went home and looked at a photograph of the two of them. The old man and H-15019 were sitting down together. He burned the photograph. His phone rang and someone asked him if he wanted to go to the old man’s funeral. He said, “No.”

A group of altar boys at St. Annes in 1945. Photo: Algoma University/ Edmund Metatawabin collection
A group of altar boys at St. Annes in 1945. Photo: Algoma University/ Edmund Metatawabin collection

Read: Jean Chrétien, St. Anne’s and the ‘straight highway’ to Attawapiskat’s suicide crisis


It wasn’t so much the old man’s death that devastated H-15019. Death was familiar to him. His brother died of a heart-attack in 2000, then his mother the next year from diabetes. A year later, his father died from cancer and his niece died from alcohol poisoning. Then his cousin died, froze to death, walking back to Fort Albany after stalling his snow machine. A little while later, another cousin was found dead and frozen by the river. He ended up there after he was turned away from the hospital. The nurses thought he was drunk, but he was disorientated from an assault, said H-15019.

“It seems like every year I’m burying my family members,” said H-15019, during the hearing, according to the transcript.

Two months before his May 30, 2013, Indian residential school compensation hearing, H-15019 said the mother of his ex-girlfriend died from a blood clot in her leg.

“She was nice. She was nice to me all the time,” said H-15019. “She made sure I ate. She made sure I had clothes. She would buy me things like blankets and coats. One time she bought me a mug…with a nickel on it. I still got it.”

No, it wasn’t the old man’s death that hurt H-15019. Death was something that he also sought. He tried to find it once at the end of a muzzle from a .22 rifle he put to his gut. The bullet blew out his back, but he survived. He tried again with a .30-30. He put the muzzle in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.

“The only thing I was guilty of was being absent-minded, because I forgot to put the bullet in the rifle,” said H-15019, in a recent telephone interview with APTN National News.

It wasn’t the death, it was the sense of betrayal, of being let down, again, by those who held power over him. The hospital staff and his supervisor knew he was close to the old man, but nobody thought to tell him about the old man’s passing. It was a new injury to an old and deep wound that would never heal; a deep and wide gash running the length of his soul. It was a wound inflicted with holy water in the name of Jesus by a man, a priest, at St. Anne’s Indian residential school who pierced H-15019’s childhood body. This priest knew Cree and he would tell H-15019 that his father and mother didn’t love him, nobody wanted him and that was why he was in the school.

“Then the priest told me, ‘Come here, I’m going to show you.’ And then he put me on his lap and he showed me how to say a prayer with the rosary beads. We kept doing that for maybe one week,” said H-15019, according to the transcript of his compensation hearing testimony. “The next thing I know he was going like this (inaudible)…. I told him, ‘Are you supposed to do that? Why are you doing that?’ Then he said, ‘That’s how little boys are taught how to pray.’”

H-15019 recounted as many details as he could throughout the day-long hearing of the repeated abuses inflicted on his body by the priest. Over and over again it happened. In different ways. In every way. The priest told him it was done in love and that if he showed love back then, “Jesus will know that you love me and you will go to heaven for it.”

There were other students who faced abuse too, but it didn’t save H-15019 from ridicule. Some students called him the priest’s “bitch” and the priest’s “girlfriend.” These insults he would remember. As an adult he inflicted revenge on those who dished it out.

“Most of the crimes I did were the results, just to people who were making fun of me. I usually go to jail for a couple of months. I’d be out for two or three months and then I start over again and start beating everybody up for saying—‘What did you call me? Do you remember what you called me a couple of years ago?’ And they’d say, ‘No.’ Then, ‘Let me remind you.’ And I broke somebody’s, I broke two people’s arms,” said H-15019, according to the transcript.

All this he recounted to Kabir Ravindra, the quasi-judge known as the adjudicator within the Indian residential school compensation hearing framework known as the Independent Assessment Process (IAP). The IAP was created out of the multi-billion dollar Indian residential school agreement between Ottawa, the Churches and residential school survivors. The IAP was supposed to provide survivors with a sort of monetary justice for the abuse they faced, but, in many cases it also forced survivors to relive their experiences, sometimes in vain. The onus, in a sense, was on the survivors to prove their abuse and the lawyers for Justice Canada would often try to undercut their stories to limit or avoid a potential payout.

For H-15019, the IAP hearing reminded him of all the times he appeared before a judge.

“I felt like a criminal, like I was going to court again, I was the guilty one again,” said H-15019.

Photo from St. Anne's Indian residential school. Undated. Courtesy of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Photo from St. Anne’s Indian residential school. Undated. Courtesy of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Maybe this time

The IAP process began for H-15019 one day in 2009 when someone told him representatives from a law firm arrived in Fort Albany to sign people up for Indian residential school settlement payouts. The law firm was Wallbridge, Wallbridge, which has offices in Timmins, North Bay and Sudbury. The firm set up in a trailer behind the hospital. Several representatives sat behind a long table. H-15109 approached the table and was told to fill out a form. In an affidavit, filed with the Ontario Superior Court as part of ongoing litigation, H-15109 said thought he was signing up for the common experience payment all residential school survivors received.

He actually signed up for the IAP.

Some time passed and he received a phone call from a woman saying she was from Wallbridge, Wallbridge.

“She asked me if I had any abuse happen to me at St. Anne’s. I had never met the person. I gave a little bit of information, that I was sexually abused by a priest, but I did not want to tell the details of the abuse over the phone to someone I had never met,” said H-15109, in the affidavit. “She asked me if the priest penetrated me and I said he did not penetrate me at first. She did not ask me any more questions.”

Then, another phone call and another woman’s voice saying she was from Wallbridge, Wallbridge.

“I told her that I was not comfortable speaking about it on the phone. She told me, ‘I don’t know when we can meet you.’ I did not tell her over the phone all the details about the sexual abuse that happened to me,” said H-15019, in the affidavit.

He was sent documents to sign. His psychiatrist would witness the signing next time he visited H-15019, who was cutting himself to numb the pain that resurfaced.

“I did not read over the application form very carefully and (the psychiatrist) did not read through it with me,” said H-15019, in the affidavit. “No lawyer ever told me that my signature meant I had to put all the details about the abuse. I only understood that I had to sign the document.”

This would prove crucial during his IAP hearing.

A couple of years passed before he heard from the law firm again. H-15019 met his Wallbridge, Wallbridge lawyer in person for the first time on May 29, 2013. It was the evening before his hearing. They met in the lobby of a Sudbury hotel where he would go before the adjudicator the next day.

“The lawyer pointed to a box and said all the documents for my case were in that box,” said H-15019, in the affidavit. “I never discussed my story with Lindsay McNicoll or any other lawyer in private, before I testified on May 30, 2013.”

That morning would be the first time H-15019 ever told the full story of what happened to him at St. Anne’s Indian residential school. It wasn’t that, as a child, he didn’t try. One summer he told his mother about the priest. She broke his nose. Blood poured down his face. At the hospital his mother told the nurses he fell and hit a rock.

“That’s when I tell my mom, ‘How come you don’t believe me when I say something to you?’ She said, ‘You’re evil. How could you say that about that, that thing about the priest?’ Then my mom told my dad and dad took me to see the priest,’” said H-15019, according to the transcript of his IAP hearing.

The priest gathered the nuns and supervisors to meet with H-15019’s parents.

“They asked him, my mom asked the priest. ‘No, I never did that to him,’ he said. He said maybe I was just acting up because I didn’t want to be in school or that I didn’t want to be here. They told me to go outside and they had a meeting. My mom and dad said I was acting up and I was crazy,” said H-15019, according to the transcript.

They threatened to send him to an insane asylum in North Bay, but instead they locked him in a room for three days, said H-15019, according to the transcript.

He also told the RCMP. H-15019 said the officers laughed at him. He said one officer told him, “You’re just a dirty little Indian.”

That Thursday morning at the end of May 2013, in a conference room at a hotel in Sudbury, H-15019 revealed for the first time the full breadth of this cancerous secret that drove him to hide in the bush and sniff stolen gasoline.

Maybe this time.

Maybe this time, he’d be believed.

Photo from St. Anne's Indian Residential School. Undated. National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Photo from St. Anne’s Indian Residential School. Undated. National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The hidden narrative

H-15019 didn’t know that Canada and his law firm also held secrets.

For every IAP hearing there is a story about the residential school. This story is called a “school narrative” in the jargon specific to IAP hearings. This narrative contains the history of the school, including whether documented evidence of abuse exists for the institution.

The St. Anne’s narrative provided by Canada for H-15019’s IAP hearing was 12 pages long. It said the school had many names: St. Anne’s, Albany Mission, Port Albany Boarding School, Albany Boarding School, Albany Mission, Albany Roman Catholic Mission Orphanage, and Fort Albany Student Residence.

The school’s story began in 1902 when the Order of the Grey Nuns began to teach the “Indian” children in Fort Albany. The residential school program began in 1904 with 12 students. The school was operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate until 1965. In 1911 Indian Affairs “representing His Majesty the King” signed an agreement with the Catholic Church on operating the school. In 1912 two students died from consumption, scurvy and scrofula.  In 1937 a new school building opened. The government of Canada paid just under half of the total cost. In 1939 the new school building burned down. A temporary building was built at the Church’s expense.

The school narrative notes only four entries under the heading: “Incidents (physical).” In 1941 three children ran away from the school and drowned. The RCMP investigated and found the parents said their children were mistreated at the school. There was an inquiry in 1942. It cleared all parties. Students in the 1950s and 1960s faced harsh punishment for speaking Cree at the school. In 1961 documents said children at the school were not being treated well. In 1977 the Fort Albany band council determined one staff member at the school was too strict with small children.

Under the heading, “Incidents (Sexual),” the school narrative said: “No known incidents found in documents regarding sexual abuse at Fort Albany IRS.”

Under the heading, “Incidents (student on student),” the school narrative said: “No known incidents found in documents regarding sexual abuse at Fort Albany IRS.”

H-15019 didn’t know that Canada held thousands of documents itemizing allegations and incidents of sexual abuse at the school gathered during an OPP investigation in the 1990s. Canada also had a list of 180 alleged perpetrators from St. Anne’s and transcripts of testimony from survivors alleging abuse compiled during a civil action in Cochrane, Ont., in 2003. The OPP documents were filed during the civil action initiated by Wallbridge, Wallbridge which represented 154 former St. Anne’s students.

Canada and Wallbridge, Wallbridge said nothing of this before or during H-15019’s hearings. The only evidence of sexual abuse that existed in H-15019’s IAP hearing came from his own story. Because he didn’t reveal all during that first phone call from the law firm years earlier and because he decided to tell his full truth to the adjudicator, he was found to lack credibility.

The adjudicator Ravindra didn’t believe him. Ravindra said the story in the IAP application was too different from the one H-15019 told during the IAP hearing. Canada’s lawyer Gail Soonarane made the same argument.

“Canada submitted that the difference between the application and the testimony went to the very core of the allegation, although she conceded that he may have been uncomfortable disclosing this level of abuse over the phone, as he told me. I agree. Even if I accept that (H-15019) was uncomfortable disclosing the degree of abuse over the phone to firm staff, he had ample opportunity to write or call his lawyer directly and make additional written disclosure prior to the hearing. The high degree of difference between the application and the testimony raises a red flag,” wrote the adjudicator Ravindra, in the ruling.

Canada’s lawyer also argued that “the claimant would…have experienced more bleeding and other rectal injury as a result of the abuse,” wrote Ravindra.

Ravindra determined that based on documents available to him the priest was only around for two years while H-15019 attended St. Anne’s. Ravindra wrote in the ruling that H-15019’s story did not have the “ring of truth” and that the use of “holy water as lubricant is odd.”

Ravindra denied H-15019’s claim on Sept. 2, 2014. Final submissions in the case were filed on July 25, 2014.

Several months earlier, on Jan. 14, 2014, Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell ordered Canada to disclose the thousands of OPP files in its possession from the criminal investigation into physical and sexual abuse at St. Anne’s along with records and transcripts from the civil action in Cochrane from 2003.

None of those documents were used in the final submissions and the adjudicator did not refer to this development in his ruling on H-15019’s case.

Those documents revealed that the priest H-15019 said abused him had uninterrupted access to St. Anne’s from 1938 until 1976. Those documents revealed the same priest to be a serial sex abuser. Those documents revealed that an assistant administrator identified by H-15019 as abetting the priest in the abuse was charged with sexually abusing another St. Anne’s student and also faced several signed allegations from others.

But Ravindra didn’t believe H-15019. Canada said there was no proof.

“The story (H-15019) told was so different from the original allegations that it required very cogent evidence to back it up. I did not receive that. This claim therefore fails for lack of reliability,” wrote Ravindra, in the ruling.

H-15019 said he felt like killing himself.

H-15019’s Wallbridge, Wallbridge lawyer filed for an IAP review of the ruling, which also failed in April 2015. Canada was not required to submit the new St. Anne’s documents ordered disclosed by the court.

H-15019 is still fighting and recently won a re-hearing of his IAP case. He has filed a complaint against Wallbridge, Wallbridge with the Law Society of Upper Canada.

He is also currently battling Canada, with the help of his Ottawa-based lawyer Fay Brunning, to release transcripts of discovery proceedings from the Cochrane civil action which were originally ordered disclosed by Perell in his 2014 ruling.

Canada admits it has the transcripts but argues they should not be released for privacy, solicitor-client, and settlement privilege reasons.

Brunning and Canada’s lawyer Catherine Coughlan have both submitted written arguments on the case and are now awaiting Perell’s ruling on the matter. H-15019’s new IAP hearing won’t commence until the issue is settled.

Wallbridge, Wallbridge denies any wrongdoing.

Photograph of boys outside of St. Anne's Indian Residential School in 1945. Algoma University/Edmund Metatawabin collection
Photograph of boys outside of St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in 1945. Algoma University/Edmund Metatawabin collection

Tethered to life

H-15019 lives in a men’s shelter. He sleeps with the light on, a chair wedged against the door.

“Probably the only time I feel alive is when I dream,” he said, in an interview. “The only time I have nightmares is when I am awake.”

He hates seeing church buildings and the cross or when somebody talks about religion. He doesn’t believe in God, but he believes in the people who are trying to help him.

He believes in his daughter and his granddaughter. They are the only thing that keep him tethered to this life.

“Something inside tells me not to give up,” he said, in the telephone interview.

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5 thoughts on “Canada vs. St. Anne’s Indian residential school survivor H-15019

  1. Dear H-15019,
    Have you heard the “hush” across the nation.There has been a pause.People are listening to you. You are making a difference in many peoples’ lives. You are making a difference in my life. I have not suffered like you but my Mother suffered and although I will never know the depth of her despair, she continues long after her death to teach me about grief.
    We are all born with a bundle. An Elder has told me that it is our gift. May take our whoe life to learn, but it is ours and nobody can take it away. Dear H-15019, you are gifted. You are brave. Your story is meant to be shared.

  2. What a brave person you are, to even allow this interview to happen. Keep hanging on. Maybe Canada and the these criminals it gets to protect it and the Catholic church will finally have that mirror to look into and see themselves for who they are. Maybe they will even have to pay for their wrong-doings. Maybe there will be a semblance of justice after all this is done, and maybe you can be freed from your demons. I hope so.

  3. These crimes can never be addressed properly or honestly by the criminals.The Church and the State (Canada) at a World Tribunal would be no less guilty than the Nazi group of mass murders under the Facist Adolf Hitler….I am also a victim survivor of that evil regime (boarding school) I don’t seek compensation, I will fight to see these crimes addressed. May Canada, it’s God and the rule of law be cursed for all time.

  4. Life is vey brutal. For a child to face all those horrific acts its beyond recall. The resurfacing of the abuses faced as a child then being numbered is a false extremity of a system used by the their evil- the people who were in charge. The child were pawns to be used as fawns by someone esle’s pedophilia. It is more than a crime against humanity. Every sexual act every physical act every emotional release every detrimental act unleashed upon a human soul forced upon any child is punishable. The law of canada with its panels of lawyers do not need a fee to belief they are in court to hear our stories. Rather we need commissioned tribunals of our own trusted people ; without a cloth to fall on. The storying of information has to deal with what we lost not only as children but the lives of every student who attended residential schools and to cover their livelihood. In our lives we have a loss of pride for our language and cultures. Our education grants of funding needs to address the future of lands and resources to housing to water rights to normalize our legacy of receiving back our title as indigenous people’s advocates for tge future!

  5. Sir,you are no longer a number.You are a man who has a name to identify yourself by.You survived a tragic past history.May you find strength in the love and comfort of your immediate Family.Many hugs.

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