Voices From Here: Andre Carrier

In this piece, Andre Carrier discusses the impacts that Catholic day school attendance had on himself, his family, and the Métis community in Winnipeg, MB.

Marsi, Andre, for sharing your experiences with us, for emboldening others to speak up, and for developing the concept for your piece.

Warning: This testimony contains descriptions that Residential School and Day School Survivors may find emotionally triggering. If you need support, the Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419.

In this piece, Andre Carrier discusses the impacts that Catholic day school attendance had on himself, his family, and the Métis community in Winnipeg, MB. Marsi, Andre, for sharing your experiences with us, for emboldening others to speak up, and for developing the concept for your piece. Warning: This testimony contains descriptions that Residential School and Day School Survivors may find emotionally triggering. If you need support, the Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419.


Filmed on March 30, 2019 in the homeland of the Métis people and on Treaty 1 territory.

Cinematographer – Jonathan Elliott
Editor – Genséric Boyle Poirier
Colour – Martin Gaumond + Outpost MTL
Sound mix – Seratone Studios
Portrait - Natasha Donovan


Transcript

WARNING: This transcript contains descriptions of sexual assault and related trauma.

My name is Andre Carrier and I am here at Sainte-Marie School. My first year was normal. I mean, we were very excited when we arrived, like little kids. But my second year was a bit different than the first. The teacher told us that on the right were the angels, and on the left were the devils. So, incredibly, on my first day of the second grade, I was seated with the devils. Why were we the devils? I didn’t know. We often were put at the back of the class, seated on a chair facing the back wall. And we couldn’t participate in the class. It was a really difficult year for me because… I’m sorry. I was a little devil.

When I was born in 1958, everything was in English. And so, when the nurse asked my mom the name of her child, she said, "André Pierre Édouard." And the nurse said, "What's that in English?" And she said, "Well, it's Andrew Peter Edward." So, they signed my birth registration as Andrew Peter Edward - not realizing that that was going to be my legal name. And hence, the beginning of a good Métis boy, here in Manitoba. In those days, English Canada had settled here in Winnipeg, and there was certainly a racial tension between the French and the English. And if you were French-speaking Michif, that added a further tension.

École Sainte-Marie was a Catholic-run day school. It was an elementary school from Grade 1 to Grade 6. And it was completely run by the Catholic Church. The teachers were nuns. There was a priest on site at all times.

Title cards:

Unlike residential schools, day schools did not require students to live at the schools. Children returned to their family homes at the end of the day.

Provinces were responsible for Métis education. But that could take different forms: residential school, federally funded day schools, or provincially funded day schools. Andre Carrier attended a Church run day school that was not part of the federal day school system.

My Grade One teacher in École Sainte-Marie was normal in the sense that she was a loving teacher. She was a nun who loved being with children and very caring. My second-year teacher was noticeably crueler to the Métis children. She was a very stern teacher. If we did not pay attention, we would get hit by rulers. She also threw chalks at children. I don't recall her throwing or hitting too many of the angels, but on our side, we got our share of discipline.

One day, in late September or early October, we were talking about catechism and one of the young ladies asked the teacher why Jesus was only covered in a loincloth on the cross. And the nun, the teacher went on a tangent about little girls should not be looking at the naked male body and the little boy should not be looking at the female naked body and otherwise they would, you know, turn to stone and burn in hell. And [she] really put the fear in us to behave. The week or so before, I was visiting my uncles, who were in their 20s, and I came across a black-and-white magazine with naked girls. And I remembered that I had seen this, and it stirred something in me. And I explained that to the to the nun that, you know, that-"Yes, something did, you know, did happen." And the children laughed, and the nun became really upset with me. She came and - for disturbing the class, I don't know - grabbed me by the shoulder and picked me up out of my chair and dragged me to…down the hallway to the church portion of the school. She went and got the priest, and talking fairly loudly, they guided me to the confession box and said, "You can have to confess for your sins."

I kneeled down to confess my sins. Then the priest said, "What’s your name?" and "Why are you here?" Then I said, "My name is Andre Carrier and I don’t know why I’m here." The priest got a bit mad, and asked again, "Why are you here?" "Well, the nun told me I needed to confess my sins. But I don’t know what my sins are." So, he opened the door and said, "Get out". So, I got out of the confessional, and he brought me to the front so I could say my prayer and think about my sins. Then he said, "Sit down to say your prayer." He was speaking pretty loudly, and I was scared. Finally, he grabbed me by the shoulder and lifted me straight up. He said, "Come with me". Back then, there was a room where the priests went to change their clothes. He brought me into a "special" room to speak one on one.

Title card:

In the side room, André was sexually assaulted by the priest.

I got scared and ran out of there back into the classroom. And the nun stopped me at the door from coming in. She grabbed me and turned me around outside of the classroom. I could hear the kids laughing again in the back in the classroom. She took me down the hall where the janitor would have mops and brooms and stuff.

In 1964, there was a basin here. When we got here, she turned on the water. Then she took a floor brush and started washing me. First, she washed my arms. During the entire time that she was washing me, she kept saying that I was a “little savage”, a “little rascal.” She was saying things like… "A little bastard who never listens." My hands were all red. And I was crying. It really had an incredibly impact on my life.

My mum does not recall, but I do remember telling my mum. And my mum, she was a nurse at the St. Boniface Hospital, who worked many hours and was very tired. She did not know how to deal with what I said. But that whole year, my grades were in the 15 - 25% margin. I was treated the rest of the year as a dirty little boy. It was really hard, really hard.

After failing Grade 2, we moved to Windsor Park. I went to another school, which was not - it was a public school. It was École Lacerte, which is an all in French school. It was really tough. I started acting out and got into a few fights.

Before he passed away in 2014, my father and I did talk about my experiences. And finally, he shared with me, before passing away, that he was abused in school as well by a priest. He was deeply impacted by the abuse that he suffered as well. And so, my generation, my father's generation, it made it very difficult for us to gain an education when you have to look over your shoulder either because you're poor or because you're a target for abuse.

At the end of the day, both the federal government and the province have to take responsibility for - as well as the church - for permitting abuse that that took place. Some parents did complain about abuse and when doing so, the Catholic Church would move that priest to another school system.

It has taken quite a few years for me to get to where I am today. And I'm hoping that other people can learn and learn to speak up. Because at the end of the day, we're not protecting that little boy, we're protecting a system that is flawed. And that is a system that permitted child abusers to get away and have free access to children who were vulnerable.

The impact of these experiences is long-lasting. I'm 61 years old and I'm only dealing with the trauma now of these realities that I lived throughout my whole life. The denial that, you know, that it had happened. And at the end of the day, I was protecting the little boy inside of me. But in reality, people need to know that they failed-the system failed to protect us. And it's not about compensation, it's not about punishing the perpetrator, because I would imagine that gentleman is in his nineties or even has passed on.

There is still a fundamental shift, where society, when it comes to Métis people, First Nations people, we're still not given a fair opportunity to participate in employment. We were good as labour, farm labourers, or factory labourers in its day, but never for a position of leadership or trust. I want to say that today, there's an awakening happening here, in Canada, and we, Indigenous people, are tired of being polite and waiting for you to recognize us. So, we're taking steps to recognize ourselves and take responsibility for our future.