Page 36 - Presbyterian Connection
P. 36

FALL 2021
  The second Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School, 1929–1970. PHOTO CREDIT: THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN CANADA ARCHIVES.
The 13-point Agreement of 1902 and Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School
is seriously ill (sick in bed), the child belonging to them shall be allowed to make a visit.”
Children were allowed to leave the school to visit their sick parents. The meaning of “seriously ill” was defined to avoid confusion—sick in bed, unable to get out of bed. Indig- enous people in Canada knew In- digenous parents had become sick and died while their children were at Residential School, and the children had not been given an opportunity to say goodbye. At times, children did not know their parents had died until they returned to their home com- munities after having been away at school for five or six years. (It was quite common for children to not return home for summer holidays.) The leaders negotiating the agree- ment wanted to ensure families were not denied the oppor tunity to say last words to one another. CJ school leaders would operate the school in such a way that children would be able to visit sick parents.
Point 13 – “That children shall pass a medical examination on entering the church but afterwards in the case of light sickness they shall be cared for at the school but in case of serious illness they shall be cared for at home or at school according to the wishes of the par- ents.”
Parents and Indigenous lead- ers knew that children died in the schools, and that frequently parents were not informed of their child’s illness and subsequent death. This final point in the agreement, estab- lished the right of parents to de- termine the care their child would receive when their child was sick in bed (the definition of serious illness as defined in point 10). The leader- ship of the school was aware that tuberculosis, in par ticular, but other
communicable diseases as well, could have devastating impacts in the close quar ters of overcrowded Residential Schools. Therefore, stu- dents were to receive a clean bill of health before being admitted to the school. The school leaders were concerned that the building was to be a school, not a hospital for sick children. Even with healthy children entering the school, students got sick and died.
Points 10 and 13, along with other points in the agreement, were possible because the school, while not on Reserve land, was near the students’ home communities, an easy canoe trip away. In 1929, CJ school was moved from Shoal Lake to a site on the edge of Kenora, and a number of the points in the agree- ment were no longer possible. The move, made without consultation with local Indigenous leaders or the parents of students, violated the terms of the agreement. Only mini- mal action was taken to ameliorate the violation.
Bishop Rouleau, Roman Catho- lic Bishop of Diocese of Churchill- Baie d’Hudson, in 1996 stated, “We sinned when we thought we could be better parents to you than your parents were.” In the 13-point agreement, parents sought to asser t their rights as parents in caring for their children, exercising agency. But the dominant culture, includ- ing both government and church, did not believe Indigenous parents could be good parents. The schools became contexts in which the Cana- dian social values of the day were taught.
In light of the events of 2021, the 13-point agreement feels shock- ingly prophetic as children’s graves are known to be at both sites of CJ school.
By the Rev. Peter Bush, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Fergus, Ont.
Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School opened in 1902 on School Point in Shoal Lake, the western part of The Lake of the Woods, in Ontario. CJ, as the school came to be known, was operated by the Women’s Missionary Society of The Presbyterian Church in Canada; the schools’ funding provided by the federal government. The federal government gave the crown land on which the school was built and paid for it to be built, along with a grant
to hire staff and house and feed stu- dents.
In opening a school in 1902 in North-western Ontario, the Presby- terian Church was entering a crowd- ed school market, one in which Indigenous parents were knowl- edgeable about how the schools functioned. The leaders of the three First Nations bands closest to the school site entered negotiations with the principal regarding the terms by which the school would operate. The resulting 13-point agreement was endorsed by the church and the Indigenous leadership of the area.
Discussion of all the points is not possible in this shor t ar ticle, three points are highlighted.
Point 2 – “That this building shall be a school building.”
It may seem odd that Indigenous leaders felt it was necessary to make this point. But by 1902 the Indigenous community was aware that some schools had become pri- marily instruments for religious con- version, with education in second place. Other schools had become workhouses with students as child labour on farms or in the schools.
Point 10 – “That if any of a family

   34   35   36   37   38