This is a fundraiser on behalf of all of those who attended the schools of the Prince George Diocese between 1958 and 1977. Funds will go towards defraying legal costs incurred at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in a case alleging racism against the RCMP.
This story started with Catholic missionaries sent to Northern B.C. in 1842. A trickle would become a flood as the resource sector and the federal government realized that the land on which Indigenous people lived held valuable commodities.
The Nedut’en, meaning “People That Live Further Up,” had lived on Lake Babine forever, but by the 1950’s and ‘60’s were forced off these lands, made to live in the Village of Burns Lake, and forced to take the name of their lake—which the missionaries had re-named “Babine”. One of the main services the Northwest Mounted Police (now RCMP) provided was to clear Indigenous people off valuable land, and kidnap children who would be sent to church-run residential and day schools.
The experience of the students starts in Burns Lake at Immaculata Day School, where most students were Indigenous. They say the RCMP would beat-up anyone who dared to stand up for themselves, and acted as truant officers who caught children who ran away from the abusive schools, returning them for more abuse.
A missionary, named John Furlong, arrived in 1969 to teach physical education. The school was a torture chamber as children, who spoke only Carrier, were severely punished for not speaking English, but it became worse, allege former students, after Furlong arrived. The next year Furlong and his wife (also a missionary) moved to Prince George College where they lived in Hostel #2 with 16 girls. Indigenous students who went to that high school said the abuse continued. No one ever went to the police.
After 2003, when Vancouver won the bid for the 2010 Olympics, people started seeing a man on TV named John Furlong. They couldn’t believe the man who dragged them to the boiler room where more abusers waited was now the CEO of the Vancouver Olympics. Buried memories returned; the rest of Canada may have loved the Olympics, but former students could not risk seeing Furlong. Depression and PTSD set in. Still no one went to the police.
In 2012, after interviewing 22 First Nations people, Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper ran a story alleging historic abuse by John Furlong; https://www.straight.com/news/john-furlong-biography-omits-secret-past-burns-lake#:~:text=Native%20people%20have%20claimed%20that,more%20than%2040%20years%20ago. Two months earlier, Ms. Beverly Abraham gave a statement to the RCMP, alleging historic sexual abuse. Charges were not laid, but this time people hoped they would be heard and told the RCMP about being slapped, punched, kicked, attacked with hockey sticks, basketballs, medicine balls, and metre sticks, dragged by the hair, the ear, the arm to the boiler room or the principal’s office by Furlong. Their crime was simply being Indigenous children. The RCMP called it corporal punishment—lawful at the time—and investigated no further. More people alleged sexual abuse. None of their allegations were investigated either. Most never spoke with the RCMP, sometimes because the RCMP never bothered to track them down, or because they remembered how the police had treated them, their family, and friends. Many were terrified, no one trusted the RCMP—including those who tried to tell them their story.
Here is the timeline of measures taken for justice for Indigenous Peoples of Northern BC and the fight against racism in the RCMP:
* January 2017: The Canadian Human Rights Commission accepted our complaint of racism and bias against the RCMP
* June 2018: The Commission moved the case to an in-depth investigation.
* January 31, 2020: The Commission wrote to Dave Thomas, Chair of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, requesting that a Tribunal be held into allegations of racism and bias in the RCMP investigation of “an alleged abuser”. That abuser is John Furlong, the former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics and the allegations refer to his time as a Catholic missionary in Northern B.C. in the late 1960’s to mid-1970’s.
* June 29, 2020: We filed our Statement of Particulars about the case with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. You can read the full document in this CBC article: https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/lake-babine-day-school-students-rcmp-investigation-1.5632173 and The Breaker story: https://thebreaker.news/business/human-rights-tribunal-furlong/ .
The RCMP’s “investigation” of Furlong was rife with systemic racism and bias. Approximately only 8% of complaints to the Commission are referred to the Tribunal; this case has stood the test of scrutiny, and cleared the high bar set by the Commission. The complainants’ allegations about Furlong were not afforded a thorough, professional and transparent investigation, therefore they were denied their right to a level of service by a federal agency normally afforded to Canadians. They also allege the RCMP held a bias as they led the Integrated Security Unit—which was responsible for the Vancouver Olympics security, which Furlong ran, and at least two senior officers from Olympic security were involved in the “investigation” into Furlong. During the “investigation” the RCMP were surveilling Indigenous protesters against pipelines in Northern B.C., protests that many of the survivors of Furlong’s abuse attended. They had endless manpower to watch Indigenous people, but not investigate their abuse allegations.
This road to justice has taken many people over three years of diligent research, writing, travel and document filing. The phase it is in now requires significant legal costs so that the two (2) top human-rights lawyers—Karen Bellehumeur https://bellehumeurlaw.com/ and Mary Eberts https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/[phone redacted]#:~:text=Order%20of%20Canada&text=She%20has%20strengthened%20equality%20rights,Legal%20Education%20and%20Action%20Fund. who represent the complainants, can hold the RCMP to account. This case will help address the pervasive racism within the RCMP across this land, and shine a light on a history of discrimination and colonialization.
While both lawyers have decreased their rates significantly, given the importance of the case, we still need to raise a minimum of $85,000.00, and hope you will help.
This is a story about the legacy of day and residential schools in the lives of Indigenous peoples, coupled with the colonial and racist roots of the RCMP. Their voices can now be heard, with your help.
Mesiy -Thank you,
Cathy Woodgate Ann Tom
Dorothy Williams Maurice Joseph
Emma Williams Hereditary Chief Richard Perry
Complainant representative: Hereditary Chief Ronnie West
- Dia Rianda
- Margaret Corrigan-Dench
- Victoria Paraschak
- Joseph O'Rourke
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