Lac-Barrière: Going to school is a risk to your health

Lac-Barrière (about 150 km south of Val-d’Or) In front of a gate of the Kitignik school, men are busy with carts and shovels, protective masks on their faces. They are trying to remove the mold that is spreading under the whole building.

They are not experts. Only this Anishinabe is an employee of the community band council. Larry Deschanges is the Community Works Director. He came down to the hole, to remove the mold. Pointing to the young workers, he said they should not go there. I have to go.

Larry Deschanges is the one who goes under the hole to examine the bottom of the school and tries to remove the mold.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

Photos in support, it reveals the amount of damage. It is difficult to separate mold from sand. But there is no doubt about the smell. A few days ago, it seemed worse.

Within the community, the problem of unhealthy schools is well known. Even Nicholas McQueen, spokesman for Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), acknowledged that The school is old-fashioned.

Regarding the presence of the mold, the ministry indicated that it was informed by the school principal on 25 May. The same day Espaces went to Lac-Barrier to investigate INDIgenes and sent an email to the director requesting an interview.

The mold problem recurs and occurs every year after the snow melts.

Two men in work clothes are throwing sand from one wheelbarrow to another.

Some band council employees are trying to solve the mold problem.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

Few people dare to speak openly about the band’s fear of retaliation. In this small and very divided community, raising issues can be costly, according to some, such as losing one’s job.

Indigenous spaces were able to collect a dozen testimonials and all pointed in the same direction.

They say that those who work within the walls of the school have red eyes, frequent migraines and coughing after a few days.

Parents are complaining on social media and demanding answers and more transparent communication from school management and head Tony Wawati.

Portrait of a man.

Keyejee is the son of a former headmaster of Papatie School who died last fall.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

KG Papati, the son of a former school principal, has worked for an organization. ans déjà on avait de la moisissure et on a toujours été inquiet pour la santé de nos enfants, mais le conseil n’écoute pas”,”text”:”Il y a 20ans déjà on avait de la moisissure et on a toujours été inquiet pour la santé de nos enfants, mais le conseil n’écoute pas”}}”>20 years ago we already had mold and we were always worried about the health of our kids, but the council didn’t listenHe says in front of his house.

Former head Casey Rath has children who go to school on their own. She smelled the mold. He urged the chief to speak to the Canadian government, which is responsible for the community.

The leader must bear our grievancesCasey Ratt says she, like many others, is concerned about the health of her children

Portrait of a little girl.

Harmony is one of the daughters of Cassie Rat.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

Lonely school

To avoid breathing in this unhealthy air, many parents have decided not to send their children to school in recent weeks. One of the people interviewed by Espaces Indiens explained that usually only 15 children come, as opposed to 80, 85.

In the corridor, the kids are not laughing, the kids are not running. The classrooms are almost empty. A teacher takes care of two young men.

A school hallway.

The community school has been neglected by children lately.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

Several closures have been ordered by the band council and some teachers have decided to continue their courses in other buildings, such as those reserved for day care.

This recurring closure is of particular concern to school and day care staff.

He is thinking about the level of schooling of children if they do not go to school with hard work. He is also concerned about possible inspections from the Department of Youth Protection (DPJ)

DPJ arrive ici et voit que les enfants ne vont pas à l’école, ce ne sera pas la faute des parents, mais de nos leaders. Si on perd nos enfants, je vais m’y opposer, et toute la communauté d’ailleurs”,”text”:”Si la DPJ arrive ici et voit que les enfants ne vont pas à l’école, ce ne sera pas la faute des parents, mais de nos leaders. Si on perd nos enfants, je vais m’y opposer, et toute la communauté d’ailleurs”}}”>If DYP Come here and see that the children are not going to school, it is the fault of our leaders, not the parents. If we can lose our children, I will oppose it, and the whole community for that matterHe said with a sigh.

The project has been canceled

Everyone is waiting for the new school to be built. According to chef Tony Wawati and others, the year-round repairs are more than 50 years old.

A chaotic school hallway.

Many members of the community want to create a brand new school.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

In the current building, a plan for what might become a new community setting is lying in a corner.

The school, whose construction should begin in 2019-2020, has never seen the light of day. There was a problem of land, on the basis of which it should have been built according to the new chief.

Then, at the time, the Regional Director General for Indigenous Services demanded that the community be connected to the Hydro-Quebec electrical network before giving the green light to build a new school.

View of a lake.

The community of Lac-Barrière is considered a semi-isolated community.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

It is true that Lac-Barrière has only one generator.

The Canadian government knows this and is waiting to make a decision about providing electricity to the community before proceeding with the construction of a new school. The ball is therefore clearly on the band council court.

The construction phase of the project cannot proceed till the final decision is taken by the community regarding power supply.Spokesperson for details The bag.

A young man who gave hockey gear.

The Canadian government is aware of the state of the community school and ensures that it works in collaboration with the band council.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

Meanwhile, the ministry is financing the repair work. Last fall The bag Significantly invested $ 275,000 to repair the roof.

The SAC ensures that it works in collaboration with the community. Besides, An advisory committee, which includes the Lac-Barrier Department of Education and the First Nations Quebec-Labrador Education Council (FNEC), has been set up to run the project smoothly.Nicholas Moquin continued The bag.

Portrait of a person near a lake.

Chief Tony Wawati blames the government mostly for the state of the community school.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

Interviewees say they already know what Chief Wawati will tell reporters. And they are not wrong.

As they thought, the leader pointed to the criminal government.

We had a big plan in 1997, but the government withdrew because our ideas were not in line with their colonial policy.He assures that before deviating from the divisions that reign within the community, it is usually about housing problems and drug use.

People are starting to lose patience. They tell us ‘we have a plan, we have a plan, we have a plan’, but where is that plan? We didn’t see anything. They have been trying to stagnate for yearsIntroduces a source of indigenous spaces

A child on the back bike.

Everyone is waiting for the end of the school year to catch their breath.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

Several people who took part in the survey also raised the fact that work is being done at the moment The community repaired the path and built a baseball diamond. They would like that this money goes to building a new school.

Temporary solution

Meanwhile, the chief says he is trying to find a short-term solution. As has already been done, the band council is trying to find a premises so that the children can go there until the mold problem is resolved.

Terrain? In Maniwaki?

Here are the options on the table, says the chef. More than an hour’s drive from the Maniwaki community, which will force children to endure long drives to school.

School view with school bus in front.

The Lac-Barrière School has existed for over 50 years and has not been renovated since.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

We want mobile homes, but they don’tThe chief said again. They They are government people.

Invisible human

In addition to the repetitive mold, the new director, James McGrogan, a non-Aboriginal, is never on the site. According to various testimonies collected, he rather works from Toronto.

He’s not from here, he’s a white guy who never comes to the party, to meet the kids, he never set foot in our school and he stays out, deciding for everyone. A

A quote from Testimony of a source who wanted to remain anonymous

Another detail is that he didn’t even introduce himself to the team.

A child on a skateboard.

Only 15 children go to school since the mold problem became unbearable.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

At Lak-Barrier, James McGrogan has been nicknamed by some Invisible human. Despite our two reminders, he himself did not respond to our request for an interview regarding the condition of the school he runs.

One of our sources adds: I told the principal that we had to hire someone who would come to the school, someone who would remember it, someone who would come to see the mold. I don’t see how he can decide if he is not thereHe says.

The director should be in the front row, here. A

A quote from Larry Deschanges
Children in the distance on bicycles.

Many children no longer go to school and spend their days outside.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

Chief Tony Wawati is well aware of this situation. We put him in the middle of an epidemic (fall 2021, editor’s note). During all this time, things were hard to move. I take responsibility for his absence from society. We tell him to comeHe said politely.

Many also criticized the band council and school administration for their lack of transparency. They accuse the chief of not being present in the society enough, not to get an answer from him while questioning him.

A house in Lac-Barrier.

The principal often mentions that in addition to the problem of affecting the school, the community suffers from a major problem of lack of housing.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Delphine Jung

For example, an inspection report was made after experts visited the school. The chief himself spoke of the report in an interview. Employees would love to be able to advise it. Despite the request of Aboriginal Spaces, the band council did not send it to us.

Meanwhile, Chief Wawati assured Pressure On the government.

Some members are seriously considering giving an ultimatum to the head and council: either they do something quickly and the matter will be taken to court.

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