A northern Manitoba First Nation has reopened a school that was closed after fears about toxic, black mould.
The chief and council of Mathias Colomb also terminated the contract of the educational consultant who closed the school, and disbanded the education authority that hired him, APTN News has learned.
“They forced me out,” said Guy Dumas, who shared the notice of Feb. 19 termination he received via email with APTN.
“It’s just because I spoke up, but I have no regrets.”
Dumas, who is a band member but lives off reserve, was a director of education consultant for the Mathias Colomb Education Authority when he shuttered Sakastew School on Dec. 4 after learning about black and green mould in two rooms and maybe more.
He linked the discovery with what he said were high numbers of children missing classes due to health issues.
“They disbanded the Pukatawagan board of education, too,” Dumas said of band leadership.
“Board members are elected by the people (but) they are putting in their own people.”
Guy Dumas shared this photo from when he worked inside Sakastew School.
A band councillor confirmed over the phone the kindergarten to Grade 12 school was reopened Feb. 25.
But she declined to do an interview with APTN, saying she had a meeting.
Dumas questioned whether the school should have re-opened.
He said he has since learned about physical and mental dangers associated with mould and hoped the school’s closure spurred parents to educate themselves about the impact on their children.
“They intend to keep the brown building I was closing down open,” he said of council.
“Mould is mould, they say.”
No one from the band’s administration has spoken publicly since APTN first reported the school was closed.
Dumas hired a company from Winnipeg, about 800 kilometres southeast of the Cree community, to remove mould from the school.
A spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada confirmed Monday those mould “remediation efforts at the school are now complete.
“The First Nation has informed us that the school reopened on February 25, 2019 and students are back in class,” the department added in an email.
Dumas also wondered whether the band council had the power to disband the education board, which it did with a motion ending the board’s mandate effective Feb. 21.
Indigenous Services was checking into that Monday.