Connie Walker: Before we begin, we want to let you know there are references to violence and sexual abuse against children in this episode. Please take care while listening.
Connie: Previously on Stolen: Surviving St. Michael's.
Norlaine Cameron: He didn't really talk a lot about the experiences but, you know, it wasn't very good.
Connie: What did he tell you that happened?
Uncle George: Well, you know, I think the rage came out in him, eh?
Auntie Lorraine: Uncle Ivan was sexually abused by a priest.
Connie: Oh, no.
Auntie Lorraine: Mm-hmm.
Connie: Did he say which priest?
Auntie Lorraine: Mmm, was it Gauthier?
Uncle Bill: Gauthier.
Auntie Lorraine: Father Gauthier.
Auntie Margaret: The one that had beat me, his name was father Duhaime.
Connie: Oh my God. One guy looks like he's completely naked in this picture. But why would he take pictures of them undressing?
Connie: When I think of the story of my dad beating up the priest, my mind doesn't linger on the side of that dark road. Instead, I think of the little boy he was in residential school. I imagine his life there, the hallways where he walked, the dining hall where he ate, the dorm room where he slept.
Connie: And I imagine the priest walking those same hallways, his black robe flowing behind him, his shoes clicking on the floors at night. The fear that sound might've instilled in the children there.
Connie: St. Michael's sat right off the highway in Duck Lake. I passed it countless times when I was a teenager driving in and out of town, and I never paid any attention to it. The only glimpse I've ever gotten inside is from an old film.
[ARCHIVE CLIP: [singing] They say don't go to the Duck Lake Powwow]
Connie: It's a documentary about an event in Duck Lake in 1967. I first learned about it a few years ago when my Auntie shared a screenshot of my Mosôm Leo, my dad's dad. I never met my Mosôm. He died before I was born. He's only in the film for a few seconds, sitting on a chair in a crowded gymnasium wearing a tie and an overcoat. There are kids jostling around him, and he gives them this look that reminds me of my dad.
Connie: When I started this reporting I remembered the documentary was shot at St. Michael's, so I went back and watched it again. It was filmed around the time that my dad and his brothers and sisters would have been there. It shows a room full of Indigenous people—leaders, parents and students. The kids from the residential school are performing, jigging and dancing powwow.
Connie: Despite the music and performances, it seems like the reason everyone's there is to speak out against the treatment of Indigenous people.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Howard Adams: The principle behind this kind of rule is that all men are not created equal.]
Connie: They're protesting the injustice of residential schools from inside the St. Michael's gymnasium.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Howard Adams: You had segregated residential schools built for Indians, run by white people. This is segregation. This is apartheid.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Mary Ann Lavallee: The Indians have never had a voice in their own education. Where are the Indians, where is the Indian voice in the school boards? Where is the Indian voice in the curriculum?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP: [singing] Long ago, the Indian fought for his land and lo, he fought a losing battle. There was nothing he could do.]
Connie: It's kind of remarkable that there's this level of resistance in 1967. Just a few decades earlier, this type of gathering wasn't even legal for us. We weren't allowed to leave the reserve without permission from the government-appointed Indian agent. We couldn't hold powwows, hire lawyers, and if you wanted to vote or go to university, you had to forfeit your Indian status.
Connie: Starting in the late 1800s, Indigenous children could be forced by law to go to residential schools. Parents faced fines or arrest if they didn't comply. And even after 1948, when the government began to shift away from residential schools, there were still plenty of reasons why kids ended up there. Sometimes there were no other schools nearby. Other times, parents faced coercion and intimidation by the churches, Indian agents and the RCMP. And so many Indigenous families were facing crushing poverty in their communities. Residential schools became the earliest form of a child welfare system, which is ironic since they were instrumental in breaking families apart.
Connie: My dad and his siblings were the third generation of Camerons to go to St. Michael's. His parents, his grandparents on both sides, they all went there. The mission of the Oblates who ran the school was to convert the students and their families to Catholicism—and they were pretty successful.
Connie: My Kokum Mary became a devout Catholic, and the pull of the church played a role in why she sent her kids to St. Michael's—even after she had gone there herself. Even if she experienced some of the terrible treatment that Indigenous people in this documentary were speaking out against.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Wilf Peltier: And we were literally beaten in the residential schools if we were ever caught speaking our language.]
Connie: In the film, in some of the shots, looming in the back of the room, hands clasped behind his back, is a lone priest. He's balding, and wears dark-rimmed glasses. The filmmakers cut back to him again and again. He's paying close attention to what the speakers are saying about residential schools. I recognize him. He's the priest who my Auntie Margaret accused of beating her, and the priest who kept negatives of boys undressing in a locker room in his personal files. It's Father Anthony Duhaime.
Connie: In 1967, he would have been the principal at St Michael's. And it's clear in the film, he doesn't like what he's hearing. Over and over again, residential schools are being criticized.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: I happen to be a principal of a residential school.]
Connie: And as he steps up to the podium to speak, he's defensive, like he can't help but try to stand up for himself and his work.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: Now you must always be very careful not to take one or two details and make it a general declaration.]
Connie: The conversation moves to a hallway, and Father Duhaime is surrounded by a crowd arguing with a group of young Indigenous men.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: A lot, a good number, I would even say more than half of the Indian parents that I have dealt with in 25 years, is that they want their children to learn English very well.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, attendee: Sure they want their children to learn English very well.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: Wait a minute. I'm not finished saying. They would even tell me, "I want you to oblige my little boy to talk English. I found that an injustice for the little child, but they told me "I want you to teach them English."]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, reporter: Father, we heard people stand up here and say they were beaten if they spoke their native tongue.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: Yeah, but that's one fact against the other. What does it prove? Nothing.]
Connie: The camera's focused on Father Duhaime. His arms are crossed and he looks impatient, like he's just waiting for his chance to talk.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: And I can prove that the kids that go through a residential school, they're the bigger proportion of success than in an ordinary school.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Duke Redbird: Oh, that's how come we have so many doctors and lawyers and—amongst our people, eh? That's how come we have so many professional people.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: That's a poor argument. That's a poor argument.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Duke Redbird: That is not a poor argument.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: That is.]
Connie: One of the people challenging Duhaime is Duke Redbird, an Indigenous man in his 20s. He's standing inches away from the priest eye to eye.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Duke Redbird: They pass their grade 12, but they're not equipped to go into university.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: You've got to have grade 12 to go to university.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Duke Redbird: Yeah, but they're not equipped to do it because ...]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: How do you know they're not equipped?]
Connie: It's almost surreal to watch this argument unfold, to see a priest in a residential school defending the system and how they treat children.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Duke Redbird: They're not equipped to cope with university because the kind of education you give them in a residential school doesn't equip them to go to university.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: Oh, you blame the school?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Duke Redbird: Well, who else do you blame?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: They fall out!]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Wilf Peltier: Every time we bring up an issue that's important to us, you talk over it.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: No, but ...]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Wilf Peltier: Every time somebody speaks, you just keep on continuing over the same old crap that you've been talking about all along.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Father Duhaime: Oh, thank you very much. If I had talked crap tonight ...]
Connie: These young men are trying to be heard, but Father Duhaime won't listen. He turns his back on them mid-conversation. The camera follows him, and he just walks away. It seems like it was easier then, in 1967, before the realities of residential schools were widely known. Since then, we've heard thousands of stories like my dad's—of children being abused at residential schools and the perpetrators escaping justice. But now it's 2022. It shouldn't be as easy for the priests from residential schools to just walk away.
Connie: I'm Connie Walker. From Gimlet Media and Spotify, this is Stolen: Surviving St. Michael's.
Connie: I want to find the priest who abused my dad. I know there were eight priests who overlapped with him at St. Michael's, and so far I've heard allegations of abuse against two of them: Father Duhaime and Father Gauthier. I want to know if either of them could be the priest he pulled over, so I need to find out if they were in Saskatchewan when my dad was in the RCMP between 1977 and 1979.
Connie: I run background checks to see if the priests were ever convicted of any crimes, but nothing turns up. I go back to Duhaime's folder from the archives. There's a clipping of an article about his "Silver jubilee" at St. Michael's, celebrating his 25 years as an Oblate priest. It says "Reverend Father Anthony Duhaime was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan." That's just an hour and half from Shellbrook, one of the towns where my dad was stationed.
Connie: Duhaime left St. Michael's in 1968, and went to another residential school—St. Mary's in Alberta. He was there until 1980. But it looks like he traveled back to Saskatchewan at least once while my dad was in the RCMP to coach a hockey tournament. And I know he traveled back to Duck Lake at least one other time: at the 100th anniversary celebration of St. Michael's, because my Auntie Margaret saw him there.
Auntie Margaret: I tried to go and confront this priest that had beaten me.
Connie: This was in 1994. She says she went to the centennial and there was Duhaime.
Auntie Margaret: He was saying mass, and there was two priests behind him. They were helping him.
Connie: After the service, my Auntie Margaret says she got up the courage to approach him.
Auntie Margaret: We got to him. He didn't remember anything.
Connie: After so many years, my Auntie had a chance to confront a priest who she says abused her, but he didn't even remember it. And that was the last time she saw him. I found an obituary for Duhaime. It says he died 20 years ago in 2002. He was 87.
Connie: I have to accept that in my search for answers about my dad's abuser, there's a good chance that even if I find out who he is, he may no longer be alive. The window for accountability is shrinking. What about Father Gauthier, the priest my Uncle Ivan accused of sexual abuse? Did anyone ever confront him?
Connie: I ask my Auntie Margaret if she remembers him.
Auntie Margaret: He's the one that married uncle and I.
Auntie Margaret: Yeah.
Connie: Wow! Where did you get married?
Auntie Margaret: Here in the church. He used to come say mass here on Sundays. Yeah. Or he'd go to your house, baptize the kids. He was a good priest.
Connie: I'm surprised my Auntie calls Gauthier a good priest given the allegation I've heard about him. She even has a photo of Gauthier with her and my late Uncle on their wedding day.
Connie: What did you know about him? Do you know where he ended up?
Auntie Margaret: He went to a foreign country.
Auntie Margaret: To go serve. I don't—I'm not even sure which country he went to, but they forced him back. He had worms.
Connie: Oh,no. Really?
Auntie Margaret: Yeah. They were just coming out of the body.
Connie: Oh my God!
Auntie Margaret: That was terrible to see.
Connie: You saw it?
Auntie Margaret: Pardon?
Connie: You saw it?
Auntie Margaret: Yeah. We saw it. He came back here. Yeah.
Connie: Oh my gosh!
Auntie Margaret: That was terrible.
Connie: That story is wild. Why would worms be coming out of his body? But what really catches my attention is the fact that my Auntie Margaret says Gauthier went overseas, but came to Beardy's in the late 1970s, which means it's possible that he was the priest my dad pulled over that night.
Connie: Okay. I am at the Saskatoon Public Library in the local history section.
Connie: I don't know anything about Father Gauthier beyond his time at St Michael's, but there's a local library in Saskatoon that I visited before. I head there to see if they can help me find anything more about him.
Librarian: And if there's a name you need to check, you can check this.
Connie: Yeah. There's one—there's one priest in particular who I'm interested in. His name is Gilles Gauthier.
Connie: A few minutes later, the librarian brings back an article with a black and white picture of Father Gauthier in the middle of the page. It's from 1989. He's posing in a white robe with a large cross on the front of it, and he's looking right into the camera with a big smile on his face.
Connie: It's from the Edmonton Journal.
Connie: This is an in-depth profile of Gauthier. I scan it quickly. Like the film with Father Duhaime, it's a snapshot of Father Gauthier at a moment in time. But it's telling. His attitudes, his values, the way he thinks about his work with Indigenous people, all seem to come through.
Connie: Mother Teresa, Bangladesh's poverty and his parents' love shaped Father Gilles Gauthier, 56, of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Connie: It says he was raised in Quebec, and was ordained as an Oblate priest in 1960 when he was 27 years old. And I'm kind of confused by some of the things he says about being a priest.
Connie: "As a priest, you are not yourself," Gauthier says. "You don't belong to yourself. You were eaten by others every way. Sometimes it is pleasant. Sometimes it is not pleasant. And that's what you have to cope with."
Connie: The records I found in the archives show Gauthier was at St. Michael's for over 10 years, but the article just briefly mentions his time at the school. Reading this, it seems like just a blip on his resume.
Connie: After he left St. Michael's, he says he traveled to Bangladesh to work with Mother Teresa. This must be the foreign country my Auntie Margaret referred to. She said he came back after he got worms, but Gauthier tells this reporter a more complicated story.
Connie: One day dressed in his robes, he was riding his motorcycle. A bus approached. Suddenly the bus veered over and crushed him. Whether it was a hit and run or an accident was never discovered. He awoke in a jungle leper colony, his shoulders separated, one arm, his ribs and legs broken. He bled from his ears, eyes and mouth. He says he had been as strong as four elephants, but after the accident he had to return to Canada.
Connie: This lines up with what my Auntie Margaret said about him returning to the reserve. It would have been around 1977—the same year my dad joined the RCMP. The article says that when he came back to Canada, Gauthier continued to work in Indigenous communities.
Connie: "The poorest in Edmonton are the native people. It's like the kid in school. If you say he's not smart he plays dumb, and that's what the natives are doing."
Connie: At one point, Gauthier says that native people tell him that he's more native than them. The tone of his quotes reminds me of Duhaime's attitude in the film—condescending and self serving. And when he tells the reporter a story about visiting men in a prison, he says maybe the most revealing thing of all.
Connie: "Like the guys in the penitentiary, I said to them, "Oh, my God. Maybe I should be in here also, but I never got caught." Oh, my God.
Connie: "Maybe I should be in here also but I never got caught?" The article gives almost no context for the quote, but I'm shocked to read it. I don't know what he meant, but it's the kind of thing I can't just ignore. This is a man that my uncle Ivan accused of sexual abuse.
Connie: The article was written in 1989. What happened to Father Gauthier after that? I pull out my phone and start searching for any more information.
Connie: This last article has him living in Edmonton. Oh my God, there's a—from 2019.
Connie: I find an Oblate newsletter with a mention of Father Gauthier from just a few years ago.
Connie: Father Gilles celebrated his 87th birthday on May 16, 2019.
Connie: There's a photo of him too, sitting inside what looks like a rec room. I search his name again with these new details, and I can't find an obituary.
Connie: Oh, I think Father Gauthier's still alive. I think he's in St. Albert, Alberta, just outside of Edmonton. I want to go see him.
Connie: Hi, guys. Sorry that took so long. Oh, wait. I can't hear you. Hold on a sec. Can you say something now?
Anya Schultz: Hello?
Ellen Frankman: Can you hear us?
Connie: Okay. Now I can hear you, yeah.
Connie: In the car after leaving the library, I call up my producers Anya and Ellen. I've just sent them everything I found about Father Gauthier.
Connie: That—that graf where he talks about talking to prisoners, and saying that maybe he should be in there too, but he never got caught?
Ellen: [gasps] Oh, my gosh!
Connie: But it's amazing that he's still alive. I can't believe he's still alive.
Anya: I know.
Connie: I feel like for somebody who's 87 or 89 now, how old is he?
Ellen: I think he'd be 89. He would have just been 89 in May.
Connie: There's some urgency here.
Connie: My first instinct after learning Gauthier could still be alive is to jump in my car and drive to Alberta. But I need to do more reporting. I might only have one chance to talk to him.
Connie: So what do we know about Gauthier right now? That he worked at St. Michael's, and was a principal there and a priest. And is still a member of the Oblates. And that it was him who my Uncle Ivan accused of sexually abusing him when he was in residential school. But nobody else that we know has accused him of abuse.
Connie: So I feel like what I would want to do is, like, try to find other classmates or other people who would have been there when Father Gauthier was there, and then try to connect with them to see if they have any memories of him, or if they have any firsthand experiences or heard of any experiences with him.
Ellen: Yeah, I agree that we should prioritize it.
Connie: Yeah. One one of them is somebody named Eugene Arcand. And he's spoken a lot about his experience in residential school. And I know that he knows my dad.
Ellen: What was his name again?
Connie: Eugene Arcand. I had a number for him, so I just texted him.
Connie: I think he lives here in Saskatoon.
Connie: I know Eugene. And I saw him speak once about being a survivor. During the talk, he pulled a laminated photo from his pocket. It was of his classmates from residential school. He pointed out how many of them had passed away. Eugene knew my dad, and he went to St. Michael's too. He writes me back right away. He says he's pretty busy, but he can meet me for a quick coffee the next morning.
Connie: I'm getting a lot of wind here with this microphone. Yeah, you sit there. That's better already. I can tell.
Connie: We're outside on a noisy patio at a small coffee shop in Saskatoon. Eugene's nickname is "Big Bird" because he's so tall. He has a mustache that looks like it's from the '70s, and always wears a newsboy cap.
Connie: I'll grab our coffees.
Eugene Arcand: Oh, yeah. Right.
Connie: Eugene tells me he only has an hour to talk. I came prepared with questions, but as soon as we sit down, Eugene takes the lead and dives right in with stories about my dad.
Eugene Arcand: Yeah, I knew your dad right through his life. Even though we didn't see each other for long periods of time, we all keep track of each other. And that's another ...
Connie: Eugene was a couple of years older than my dad. They met when they were both students at St. Michael's.
Eugene Arcand: ... conditioning, right? You're just a little kid, then all of a sudden you start experiencing these things, especially six, seven, eight years old were dangerous years, eh? It was a survival instinct mentality—only the toughest survive. And that, in regards to your dad, your dad was a tough guy, so we survived a little easier.
Connie: It feels different talking to Eugene than talking to my dad's brothers and sisters. With my family, I was more careful and cautious. But it doesn't take long for Eugene to start revealing the harshest realities of residential school.
Eugene Arcand: if you were an athlete, the missionaries liked to show off the mission kids. So you got treated better. You got fed better during that time, you know, that season was on, right? My goal was never to make it to the NHL. My goal was just to get to be a big boy and get the hell out of there. To be a big boy meant to me that those perverts and deviants would leave me alone. And so it's a warped way of thinking for a child, you know? That's how I thought as a child. The everyday threat that we experienced was from the administration of those institutions—especially the clergy.
Connie: Every time Eugene says what it was like for him, I think of my dad, and that he must have gone through the same thing. Both victims of terrible abuse at such a young age. Both athletes, both forced to become "tough guys." And despite the fact Eugene is able to talk about it, he says he's still vulnerable to the pain and trauma from decades ago.
Eugene Arcand: I don't talk about this at night, from six o'clock on or thereabouts. I've been asked to be a keynote for banquets. And I said, "Hell no, I don't do this." Because the demons crawl at night, eh? You know? And no matter how well you think you are, you still have the unexpected visits in the middle of the night.
Connie: I remember my dad's angriest outbursts happening at night.
Connie: You know, I remember him as being somebody from my childhood who was very—you know, he was very angry and very mean and ...
Eugene Arcand: And tough.
Eugene Arcand: Right? And you know what, Connie? That's all of us. That's all of us. I don't think we knew what we were mad at, you know, at that point in our lives. I didn't know. I just—I didn't know normalcy, so everything, all my behaviors were based on that crazy world I came out of, which I thought was normal. And so violence was an everyday—it was okay.
Connie: Eugene is so direct, so blunt. He's talking about what it was like for him and other survivors in the years after residential school. Listening to him describe that violence that was normalized helps me feel like I have an even clearer understanding of how my dad became the person I knew when I was young. And now, despite the hurt he inflicted on me and my mom, I feel for him, for what he went through and how it changed him.
Eugene Arcand: When I came out of there, I had no respect for the law. I had been locked up for 11 years. Didn't matter to me. I didn't understand love, I didn't understand hugs. I didn't understand compassion. We were just rank guys. We were rank guys and woman, eh? Damaged goods, I call it, you know? And we didn't understand it.
Connie: I've been letting Eugene talk, and what he's been sharing is a lot to process. It's been hard to find a moment to break in, but I want to ask him about my dad and the priest. And I know my time is limited.
Connie: Well that's—that really is what brings me here, honestly, is that my brother Hal—I don't know how much longer I have you for, but when do you have to go?
Eugene Arcand: Well, we got about 15 minutes.
Connie: Okay. My brother Hal had shared a story about my dad that I'd never heard before, about how when he was a police officer, he pulled over a drunk driver, and it turned out to be a priest who had abused him in school. And that he then—he beat him up and he expected that he was gonna get fired or gonna get in trouble, but nothing ever happened.
Eugene Arcand: I did the same thing. Yeah, I beat up a supervisor I found. I was looking for these other characters at that point in my life. I'm glad I didn't find them. But yeah, I did revenge a couple of supervisors that were mean to me and hurt me.
Eugene Arcand: Yeah.
Connie: It wasn't only my dad. Eugene also took revenge on people from residential school.
Eugene Arcand: And nothing ever came of it. Nobody even knew about it, except those people and me. But they never wanted to see me again. I told them, "You ever see me anywhere, you can get the hell out of there because I'm gonna hurt you again." One of them just passed recently, and I was relieved because I still—I still don't trust myself, right? I never know when that trigger is gonna happen. I wish I did, but sometimes things happen and I don't want to be mean or rough with anybody, but I know this: I'm not good as I once was, but I'm good once as I ever was, and it still scares me.
Connie: It sounds like Eugene is saying that he's still capable of this type of violence. If anyone will understand why I want to find my dad's abuser, I think he will.
Connie: I've been trying to find out who that was, you know?
Eugene Arcand: You don't want to, Connie.
Eugene Arcand: No. Why?
Connie: Well, because I feel like a big part of my understanding of residential schools ...
Eugene Arcand: Because I think I know who it is but, you know, it's not—I'm not gonna say it on this thing. [laughs]
Connie: Eugene points to the microphone sitting between us on the table. And I ask the question I've been waiting to ask since we sat down.
Connie: Do you think it could be Father Gauthier?
Eugene Arcand: Yeah. I actually just about killed Father Gauthier at a national event in Edmonton. I come so close to throwing him over that balcony. He poked me in the back and he says, "Are you Eugene Arcand?" I said, "Yes, I am." I said, "Who are you?" He said, "I'm Father Gauthier." I said, "Put on your jacket. You and I have to have a talk outside."
Connie: He says he was at an event for residential school survivors in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2014, and out of nowhere, Father Gauthier recognized Eugene and came up to him.
Eugene Arcand: And we had a really, really rank meeting. He was crying. And I said, "Pity, eh? Don't look at me, you sick pig. You're a sick pig. You think you did us favors? You're a sicko, man. I should fuckin' put you out of your misery right now."
Connie: Oh my God! What did he say?
Eugene Arcand: He cried. I don't think up 'til that point, any residential school survivor had confronted him with what I had. It was habitual, I'm sure, for him to be able to intimidate others. He just came across the wrong bad-ass monkey. And at that moment, these things came back to me. For that moment, for that 10 minutes or 15 minutes, things came back to me, which right now, as we speak, I can't even remember.
Eugene Arcand: That's how much anger I was carrying at that point. And I—and I went further. And I said, "You know what, Father? Let me tell you something. I tracked you down. You went to Bangladesh. And then before you came back, you got hit by a bus. Supposedly got hit by a bus, and you told the rest of the world that you had lost all of your memory. You sick fucker, you didn't lose fuck all."
Connie: Eugene is at a conference for residential school survivors, and says he's holding Father Gauthier over a balcony, confronting him about what he did at residential school. But I'm not clear exactly what he's accusing Gauthier of. And Eugene seems to know what I just learned in the library about where Gauthier went after St Michael's. But this is the first time I'm hearing about Father Gauthier's claim that he lost his memory after being hit by a bus in Bangladesh. Eugene says as he's standing outside with Father Gauthier, another survivor from St. Michael's walks past.
Eugene Arcand: A.J. Felix was a big boy. He didn't know what was going on. He recognized Gauthier, and he was coming up to talk. And when he heard me, he took off. And so I went and seen A.J. after. I said, "A.J., how come you took off when I was talking to Gauthier like that?" He said, "Buddy, I didn't want to be a witness to a murder." He said, "I thought you were gonna kill him." And I thought, you know, I wanted to throw him over that balcony.
Connie: Eugene decided to let Father Gauthier go, but demanded that he leave the event.
Eugene Arcand: Because my fellow students that were in Duck Lake. "Did you see Father Gauthier?" "No." I said, "Why?" "I seen him over here. I'm so scared, I ran away." And this is consistent. There was four or five adults that seen him and took off. he's an old man, you know? I went and seen the Bishop. I told him, "You get that fucker out of here."
Connie: I'm kind of reeling after this story. Hearing all of this, I decide to tell Eugene about my Uncle Ivan's allegation.
Eugene Arcand: You know, I don't like getting in—quite a few of us got sexually abused. I was sexually abused, you know? And some just don't want to go there. So I don't want to really want to, you know, say I know this. Because those secrets are ours. We all know who abused who, whether it be the clergy, the staff or student-on-student abuse, we all know who abused who. So I don't get into it, you know, with those. Because I know lots. They know lots, right? But it's our space.
Connie: Well, he's still in Alberta, right? He's still in Edmonton.
Eugene Arcand: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. But you know what? I know after the experience with me and probably others, he's a pitiful person. Know what I mean? He's living a life of misery right now.
Connie: I'm not sure about Eugene's claim that he's living a life of misery. The article I found in the library from 1989 showed Gauthier posing for a feature story and bragging about his work with native people. Everything I've seen suggests he's an old man living a peaceful life. If Eugene really thinks Gauthier is a "sick pig"—whatever he meant by that—wouldn't he want him to be held accountable?
Connie: Shouldn't he be in jail?
Eugene Arcand: What good is it? Why would you want to waste public money? And what's the outcome of it? He's gonna die in there? He's gonna get all kinds of publicity that's not earned? You know? I don't know, Connie. I don't—those people are living a life of misery. Well, most of them are either dead or old and sickly. I wouldn't want somebody throwing me in jail when I'm 80 years old, you know? And I wouldn't want that on any of our people, much less these sickos that have to live with what they did, you know? Even though I know probably Gauthier's in denial, but privately I know he knows. We know, you know? And he knows we know.
Connie: I think I expected that Eugene might encourage me to go forward, to talk to Gauthier, to ask him is he the priest who hurt my dad and my uncle? To get the answers from him directly. My drive to find my dad's abuser, whoever he is, has always felt clear and obvious—something I wanted to do almost as soon as I heard the story about my dad pulling him over. It's my way to process it, to get through the pain I felt when I learned my dad had been abused. So it's jarring to have Eugene not only say that I shouldn't go talk to Father Gauthier, but why would I? What good could I expect to come from it?
Eugene Arcand: But as I come to understand nêhiyawêwin, they're suffering way more than a beating I could have laid on him was ever gonna do.
Connie: Eugene tells me he believes that healing from residential school won't come from seeking revenge.
Eugene Arcand: We gotta—we gotta help fix this. But we got to help fix it with Indigenous thinking, Indigenous ceremony, Indigenous language. I got my language back, you know? I'd been brainwashed in those 30 years to think that I had lost my language until one of the old people said, "Hey, you have it. You gotta find it. It's in you. It's in all of us. It's just a matter of finding it."
Connie: Eugene gets up to go to the restroom, and I'm left sitting there trying to take in everything he said. Thinking of my dad as a child in residential school, thinking of the abuse he endured. On my journey so far, I've been so focused on finding his abuser. After talking to Eugene, I wonder if I'm putting my efforts in the right place. I don't know what to think. And when Eugene comes back he can see it all on my face.
Eugene Arcand: You okay? Well, on this—on what we shared, the only thing I don't like and what I don't mind sharing with you because I know you and I know your dad, and that is when I started on this journey, that same person who helped me, encouraged me to regain my language, I told him I'm gonna start working with residential school survivors. And he said, "Good." He said, [speaking Cree.] He said, "Don't play with this." He said to me, "There are still people walking around out there not being able to go home."
Eugene Arcand: And so I'm very cautious on how I deal with this. This stuff that I've shared with you, that's our knowledge. That's ours. What we've learned. And we use that in a respectful way. This is what I call "Nehiyaw." This is what we have learned. We don't profiteer from it. We take care of it, where we have to pass it down. But use this in a good way. Don't play with this, you know?
Eugene Arcand: And I see people playing with it. I see people thinking they're doing good when they're not doing good. We don't want to just be interviewed, and then somebody takes off with it and becomes an expert on the backs of our misery. Which is what's happening, right? Especially with the settler community. We've been through hell and we've been back. And we're back. We can do things for ourselves. Quit doing things for us. If it's a child of—like what you're doing, and other children—I have no issue with moving it forward. Just be careful with it. Be careful with it. Don't play with it, eh?
Connie: This warning from Eugene really shakes me. In all of my work in my life, I've tried to elevate the voices of survivors. I want to do that with this story, but now I'm wondering if I've overstepped, if I've misjudged whether this is my story to tell and my mystery to try to solve.
Connie: Yeah. I mean, I—I'm—I'm thinking and taking in everything you're saying.
Eugene Arcand: You're overwhelmed.
Connie: I am overwhelmed.
Eugene Arcand: You know? And you know what, Connie? Pretty well every child of that I talk to the same way has been overwhelmed. Because it's not just you, I'm overwhelmed too, you know? I just have a chance, I'm older, I speak about it a little bit more. And so, you know, I don't like to see you shed a tear, but it's important that you shed that tear because what I shared with you today is volumes of what you can share with fellow children, right? They don't have to agree, and you don't have to agree with what I'm saying, but revenge doesn't make anything good for anybody. It just gives you hands like mine.
Connie: Eugene shows me his hands across the table. They look swollen and gnarled. These are the hands that clutched Father Gauthier's collar and dangled him over a balcony. Eugene got the chance to confront someone he believed to be an abuser. He looked him in the eye and called him sick. He called him a pig. Both my dad and Eugene sought revenge for the abuse they experienced at St. Michael's. I'm not looking for vengeance, I'm searching for the truth. And if I find the priest who abused my dad, I want to expose him, to try to hold him accountable in some way. But Eugene is warning me against this. When he says "Don't play with this, don't play with survivors' stories," does he think that's what I'm doing?
Connie: Since coming home I've questioned how much of my dad's story is really mine to tell. Would he want me to try to find his abuser? Would he want me to be sharing his story in this way? I don't know the answer to those questions. But Eugene's words are echoing in my mind. He was right—the traumas of residential school have been passed down. They're my dad's, but they are mine too. I can see now, after talking to my family and Eugene, how my life was shaped by my dad's time at St. Michael's. I know more than I ever have about what my dad went through, but I also know it's just a sliver of the residential school experience.
Connie: What I want to do before I go any further is to let the survivors speak the truth for themselves.
Connie: Next time on Stolen: Surviving St. Michael's.
A.J. Felix: They picked us up here in a truck. It was kind of a cattle truck. And they loaded us up. My mom was crying. My dad was turning away, didn't want to look at us being herded in. There was an RCMP officer, a priest and the Indian agent, and they told my parents if you don't send them to school, you will end up in jail. And the priest says, "I will be the father of your children."
Connie: Stolen: Surviving St. Michael's is a Gimlet Media and Spotify original production. The show is hosted and reported by me, Connie Walker. Additional reporting by Betty Ann Adam. Reporting and producing by Chantelle Bellrichard, Max Green and Anya Schultz. Our supervising producer is Ellen Frankman. Our editor is Devon Taylor. Our consulting editor is Heather Evans.
Connie: Additional editorial support from Lydia Polgreen, Reyhan Harmanci, Jonathan Goldstein and Saidu Tejan-Thomas. Fact checking by Naomi Barr.
Connie: Original music by Emma Munger, Cris Derksen, Raymond Cameron and Catherine Anderson. Additional original music from Harry Bird, courtesy of his family. Scoring, sound design and mixing by Emma Munger. Music supervision by Liz Fulton.
Connie: Legal support from Iris Fischer, Nathalie Russell, Whitney Potter and Rachel Strom. Right and clearances by Jonah Delso and Isabel Larreur. Special thanks to the National Film Board of Canada and CBC Licensing.
Connie: If you have information that you'd like to share about St. Michael's Indian Residential School in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, you can write to us at: stolen(@)spotify.com. If you are a survivor or intergenerational survivor of Canada's residential school system and you need help, there's a 24-hour support line you can call: 1-866-925-4419. And if you or someone you know is dealing with physical or sexual violence, you can find resources in your area by going to Spotify.com/stolen.
Connie: Thank you for listening.