Finding unmarked graves of what are believed to be 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. shocked the nation, but it also got many other survivors to share their stories.
Claude Boivin, an Innu man who found peace after several years of torment, is one of them.
Boivin is a survivor of the Pointe-Bleue residential school north of Roberval, Que.
Of the provinces 10 residential schools, Pointe-Bleue was the last to close permanently.
At the age of six, Boivin was enrolled at Pointe-Bleue, where he stayed until the age of 12.
He remembers fearing the priests dressed in all black, crosses hanging at their side. It was only the beginning of a life spent in institutions.
“At 12 years old, I was dysfunctional. From 12 to 18, I was in foster homes and institutions. At the age of 18, it was prison. So I told myself, ‘Time to go.’ I’m fed up of this place, so I’m leaving,” Boivin told APTN Nouvelles Nationales.
“I ended up in the big city – Montreal. I didn’t even know where it was, but I headed there. After that, I ended up in Vancouver and the states with other Indigenous folks from there.
After his release from prison, Boivin was homeless for 17 years. But eventually he was able to transcend his demons and his experience at Pointe-Bleue.
At the age of 35, following a third attempt at suicide, Boivin decided to get reacquainted with his Innu roots.
Today, Boivin is the owner of a flourishing business. He draws from his past experience to help others in his community of Mashteuiatsh.
“I will never forget it. But I have to forgive it,” he said.
“That’s what forced me to grow, in a sense.”
A National Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support to former students. This 24-Hour Crisis Line can be accessed at: 1-866-925-4419.