Francoise Seguin, a 97-year-old woman from Ottawa, has been charged with three counts of gross indecency related to allegations of sexual assaults that took place in northern Ontario residential and day schools in the 1960s and 1970s.
Background of the Accused
Seguin was formerly a nun affiliated with the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. She worked at St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany from 1958 to 1968. The school, situated approximately 900 kilometres north of Ottawa on the shore of Hudson’s Bay, was one of several such institutions where Indigenous children in Canada were forcefully taken to in an attempt to strip away their culture and language. Many children suffered physical and sexual abuses at these institutions.
Seguin’s association with St. Anne’s was first identified when her name appeared on a list provided to the OPP by the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa in 1994, after the force initiated an investigation into abuse allegations at the institution.
Charges and Investigation
The charges were levied following an intensive investigation prompted by a complaint received by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in late 2022. The alleged incidents occurred not only at St. Anne’s but also at the Bishop Belleau School in Moosonee and a detention facility in Sudbury.
Bill Dickson, an OPP spokesperson, confirmed the locations of the reported incidents and affirmed Seguin’s role as a nun/teacher during that period. Seguin, also known in certain records as Francoise Rachel and Weebajo (Walrus), is scheduled to appear in court in Moosonee in December.
It is pertinent to mention that the charges remain unproven in court.
Reactions from Survivors and Communities
Evelyn Korkmaz, a survivor from St. Anne’s, reminisced about a school trip she undertook under Seguin’s supervision to Expo 67 in Montreal. She expressed her shock at the revelations, stating that she initially perceived Seguin as one of the “good guys.”
Anna Betty Achneepineskum, the deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, applauded the individual who bravely stepped forward with the complaint. She emphasized the significance of these charges in validating survivors’ experiences and fostering healing. Achneepineskum also expressed hopes that this incident would compel the Sisters of Charity to confront and acknowledge their role in the traumatic history of the residential schools.
However, despite multiple attempts being made to get a response, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, also known as the Grey Nuns of the Cross, have remained silent.
The Broader Context of Residential Schools
St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany operated from 1906 to 1976 and was one among many such institutions infamous for its mistreatment of Indigenous children. Stories from survivors paint a grim picture, detailing horrific punishments, including a makeshift electric chair and forced consumption of vomit.
The charges against Seguin come in the wake of broader national revelations and reckonings concerning the legacy of residential schools in Canada.
If you or someone you know is grappling with trauma from sexual assault or residential schools, several resources, including helplines and counselling services, are available to support victims and survivors.
For immediate assistance, please contact the National Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.