Oblate presence: 1977- Geographical location: James Bay.
Historical reflections on the Albany Residential School, by Bishop Jules Legerrier, OMI.
In the summer of 1903, the Albany Residential School opened its doors to 32 residents when their parents were leaving for their hunting grounds. Meanwhile, the Brothers and the Amerindians completed the construction of this imposing three-story building, which was to serve as a residential school for the next 29 years. The Grey Nuns of Ottawa had arrived in the country the previous year and resided in a Hudson’s Bay Company house. A section of this house was occupied by a small hospital, which also received its first patients. It was the beginning of two works dear to Father F.X. Fafard, founder of the first Oblate residence in James Bay in 1892. In 1932, to protect it from floods and ice the work was transported kilometers away to a modern building near Lake Saint Anne that could accommodate more than 100 students. This school was destroyed by fire on August 23, 1939. The following month, work began again on the construction of a three-story building.
In the spring of 1964, Bishop Henri Belleau resigned; he was 68 years old and had been in charge of the Vicariate for the first 25 years of its existence.
In 1970, the Department of Indian Affairs purchased the residential school. After the closure of the residential schools, many questions remain. It is undeniable that this system had its advantages and disadvantages. It certainly advanced the cause of education in the aboriginal community. The residential schools have been accused of causing the loss of the students’ first language. This is certainly not the case in Fort Albany. The teaching of the Indian language has always been part of the curriculum.
Eugène Lapointe, OMI