Background Content

Call to Action # 29: Justice (25-42)

Former St. Anne’s nun 8th person charged for alleged abuses at that residential school

October 19, 2023

‘Many people will be relieved,’ says Former Fort Albany chief Edmund Metatawabin

A politician holds a paper up as advocates and other side beside him at a table.
NDP MP Charlie Angus, right, speaks during a 2013 news conference in Ottawa calling for justice for St. Anne’s survivors. He is joined, right to left, by advocate and former Fort Albany chief Edmund Metatawabin and Mushkegowuk then deputy grand chief Leo Friday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

CBC News: Some were remembered only by their nicknames. They were brothers Big Nose and Pigskin, Hamburger Lips and Pinching Lady, sisters Grasshopper, Skunk and Pig — aliases and Cree epithets the children of St. Anne’s residential school in Fort Albany, Ont., gave their alleged abusers.

They’re among 180 alleged perpetrators listed by 152 survivors in 61 lawsuits, filed against the Canadian government and Catholic Church in the early 2000s. But in some cases, like those above, the now-adult children could only recall the nicknames.

“It’s really haunting, because you realize that these were names that were whispered among children, and whispered as warnings,” said Charlie Angus, New Democrat MP for Timmins-James Bay, whose riding encompasses Fort Albany where St. Anne’s operated.

“This was supposed to be a school. Instead it was a torture chamber, a place for pedophiles.”

The parliamentarian was reacting to the laying of three charges of gross indecency against a 97-year-old Ottawa woman, in connection with sexual assaults at St. Anne’s, Bishop Belleau School in Moosonee and a Sudbury detention facility in the 1960s and 1970s. “If the police believe that there’s enough to charge her, that case should go ahead [to trial],” he said.

WATCH | Charges laid against former residential school nun

Historical sexual assault charges laid against Ottawa nun who worked at residential, day schools: 1 day ago – Duration 2:40

Ontario Provincial Police have laid three gross indecency charges against Francoise Seguin, a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa who worked at St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont., between 1958 and 1968.

Click on the following link to view the video:

Francoise Seguin is the third nun to face criminal charges stemming from her work at St. Anne’s with the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. Her name is on that 20-year-old list, alongside her Cree epithet — Weebajo, or Walrus.

The allegations against Seguin are unproven, and she was not a defendant in the 2000s-era litigation.  CBC News was unable to contact her directly. Seguin is scheduled to appear in court in Moosonee in December.

‘Congregation has no comment’

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) spokesperson Bill Dickson said the case involves a single male victim who was a young student at the time. More information wasn’t immediately available through the courts, where a registry official said police hadn’t yet provided an information package.

An official with the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa declined to answer questions on Wednesday when CBC News visited the Catholic order’s offices. “The congregation has no comment,” said the official, who did not provide her name. “Justice must take its course.”

The official would not answer any questions, including whether Seguin remains a nun. The order has not returned calls or provided a spokesperson’s email. 

A group stands for a picture taken in black and white.
Sister Francoise Seguin, right, at St. Anne’s in Fort Albany in 1967. (Submitted by Evelyn Korkmaz)

Previously, two Sisters of Charity of Ottawa nuns were charged and convicted following a 1990s OPP probe into suspected criminal conduct at St. Anne’s.

Anna Wesley, a Cree nun who had attended St. Anne’s herself, was convicted in 1999 of administering a noxious substance and assault. Jane Kakeychewan was convicted in 1998 of three counts of assault causing bodily harm on female students. 

Between 1992 and 1997, police interviewed more than 700 people, took 900 sworn statements and seized more than 7,000 documents from several church organizations, eventually laying charges against seven former school workers. Five were convicted.

Seguin is the eighth school worker charged.

1990s OPP probe

Former Fort Albany chief Edmund Metatawabin was instrumental in sparking that probe when he co-organized a community conference in 1992, where stories came to light. A six-person investigating panel heard testimony from 30 people and rendered its report that August.

From the testimony, the panel reported detailed accounts of sexual and spiritual abuse and widespread physical abuse. Some former students reported they were forced to sit in a homemade electric chair or eat their own vomit. There were detailed stories of rape and sexual humiliation.

“The victims in St. Anne’s residential school survived repeated attacks by perpetrators during their stay,” Metatawabin told CBC Indigenous.

Edmund Metatawabin speaks during a news conference in Ottawa in 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Metatawabin turned that report over to the OPP in 1992. Not long after, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa provided investigators with a list of everyone who had worked there.

The list showed Seguin was a teacher and director between 1958 and 1968. In archival photos provided by the sisters to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation she is seen teaching in class, smiling in undated pictures, and also at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Moosonee in 1989.

Metatawabin, who was at St. Anne’s from 1956 to 1963, said he was long aware of allegations. “We said in 1992 that she was one of the [alleged] perpetrators,” Metawabin said. “Now we know the police have laid charges, and many people will be relieved.”

Black and white photo of a large imposing institutional building with swingsets in the foreground.
An undated photo of St. Anne’s residential school in Fort Albany, Ont. (Algoma University/Edmund Metatawabin Collection)

In his view, the Canadian government and Catholic Church have historically minimized the brutalities at St. Anne’s.

When the residential schools class-action settlement was implemented, Canada withheld thousands of pages of evidence outlining the abuse there, including the OPP files, trial transcripts and evidence of prior convictions.

Metatawabin helped secure court-ordered disclosure of those files in 2014, but he still believes the federal government must do more to mend the broken trust.

The school operated from 1906 to 1976. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation counts 24 deaths there.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at


Brett Forester, Reporter

Brett Forester is a reporter with CBC Indigenous in Ottawa. He is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southern Ontario who previously worked as a journalist with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.