Visionary I

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My name is Dwight Ballantyne.  I grew up for 21 years in Montreal Lake Cree Nation, a remote First Nation in northern Saskatchewan and I am the FIRST generation in over 130 years not to be a direct victim of the government’s assimilation process that was designed to eliminate the “Indian problem” and “take the Indian out of the child”.  The seven generations before me were.  I was born in 1995 and the last “school” designed to achieve this goal did not close until 2000.  Had I been born just a few years earlier things would have been different for me.


I knew that my direct family members were Residential school Survivors even though it was not a subject that was actually discussed.  So imagine my shock when I just found out that my mom and hundreds of thousands of others who attended “schools” with the mandate to “take the Indian out of the child” are not considered Residential school Survivors.  


My mom attended a “school” called Timber Bay but when you check on the list of 139 Residential schools in Canada, it is not on the list.  Timber Bay “school” is located just one kilometer outside of Montreal Lake Cree Nation, the First Nation that I grew up in for 21 years.  So just weeks ago I started to do some research and found another shocking discovery….






Timber Bay is part of the list of 699 additional “schools” that are either called Indian Day schools or Children’s Homes.  These “schools” were also government funded, church run and opened with the specific intention of assimilating Indigenous children.  The children who attended suffered the much of the same emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse as the children who attended the 139 official Residential schools. The only difference was that most of the children carried their hurt, shame and abuse home with them at the end of the day.  


Timber Bay school is known by several different names but it is most commonly referred to as Timber Bay Children’s Home.  It is unique in two very specific and important ways, which we learned directly from Michael Swinwood, the lawyer who has been fighting to have Timber Bay Children’s Home added to the official list of Residential schools for years.    


  1. Timber Bay Children’s Home was opened in 1952 in response to the overcrowding in the surrounding Residential schools.  Children that were sent to Timber Bay lived permanently at the home and attended a separate school building.  Other children that lived close by attended the school as “day students”.  


  1. There has been an ongoing legal battle to have Timber Bay Children’s Home added to the official list of Residential schools for twenty years but every court has denied the request and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case in 2017.  The reason?  A technicality that was explained to us by Michael Swinwood.  Both the federal and provincial governments funded the “school” but a contract was never signed with the church organizations who ran the “school”.  For this reason it has been determined that it cannot be placed on the official list of Residential schools.


This technicality means that people who attended Timber Bay Children’s Home and the school are not considered Residential School Survivors and are not entitled to any of the compensation and resources provided to those whose school is on the official list.  It also means that even though Survivors recall students dying while attending the Timber Bay,  there will be no financing or resources to search for unmarked graves.


Michael Swinwood told us that he is hoping to re-open the conversation with the government in the next six months to have Timber Bay Children’s Home placed on the official Residential School list.  


It is the goal of The Ballantyne Project to raise awareness about this issue with as many people as possible in order to generate public insistence that Timber Bay Children’s Home is placed on the official list of Residential Schools in Canada.  


It is also our goal to make Canadians aware that there are an additional 200,000 Indigenous Survivors who attended these additional 699 “schools”  who are not being recognized or acknowledged.


We believe that if Timber Bay Children’s Home is added to the official Residential School list it will open the door for many of the other 699 additional “schools” to be added as well and allow the 200,000 Indigenous Survivors of these schools to receive the resources, support and acknowledgement they deserve.


TIMELINE OF TIMBER BAY RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL (to the best of our knowledge as information is challenging to find)


Both federally and provincially funded and church run.  Timber Bay Children’s Home had many different names over the years.  It was also known as the Montreal Lake School and the Montreal Lake Children’s Home.


1950’s -  Timber Bay Children’s Home opened.  It was a boarding house and provided some education.   Run by Northern Canada Evangelical Mission.


1969 -  Brethren In Christ, a denomination of the Mennonite Church took over the home.  Children were sent to school in Timber Bay or Montreal Lake Cree Nation


1969 -  Bobby Bird ran away and was never found.  Two children had previously died running away from the home.


1986 - Boys dorm burnt down to the ground.  It had housed 32 boys and a separate building housed 32 girls.


1994 -  Timber Bay Children’s Home closes


2001 -   More than 24 former residents file civil suit against church groups and then federal and provincial governments.  Alleging physical and sexual abuse by staff.  All former residents (from La Ronge, Saskatoon & Air Ronge)  had been confined to the home for all or part of one or  more years.  


2001 -  Merchant Law Group files class action lawsuit for 2,000 students who resided at Timber Bay Children’s Home from 1952 - 1994.


2009 -  Court case denied.  There is a dispute about if it qualifies as a class action lawsuit.


2013 -   Saskatchewan court to determine if Timber Bay Children’s Home should be listed as a recognized Residential school.


2013 - Judge refuses class action certification


2014 -   Lawyer, Michael Swinwood, acting on behalf of Lac La Ronge band requests access to records of Timber Bay Children’s Home from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.  He is denied access.


2016 - Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada reject common experience payment claim by former Timber Bay Children’s Home students.


2016 -  Saskatchewan Court of Appeal declined case for Timber Bay Children’s Home to be recognized as a Residential School.  


The IRSSA defines “Indian Residential Schools” as schools listed on Schedules “E” or “F”, or found to meet the criteria set out in Article 12 of the IRSSA. They require that the child “was placed in a residence away from the family home by or under the authority of Canada for the purposes of education” and that “Canada was jointly or solely responsible for the operation of the residence and care of the children resident there”. The Band applied to have the Home included on Schedule “F”.


2017 - Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear the case.


October 2020 - Criminal complaint of a death at Timber Bay Children’s Home in 1974 is being investigated by the Saskatchewan Historical Crimes division


August 2021 -  Prince Albert Grand Council Chief formed a group consisting of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation Chief, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Chief, Lac La Ronge Chief and former students of Timber Bay Children’s Home.  Jim Carr, a special federal government representative for the prairies is willing to meet and discuss the Timber Bay Children’s Home.