British Columbia Premier John Horgan (centre, blue jacket) is drummed into the Lower Post Residential School by Kaska drummers in Lower Post, B.C. on Orange Shirt Day in a 2019 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Manu Keggenhoff MANDATORY CREDIT

British Columbia Premier John Horgan (centre, blue jacket) is drummed into the Lower Post Residential School by Kaska drummers in Lower Post, B.C. on Orange Shirt Day in a 2019 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Manu Keggenhoff MANDATORY CREDIT

Former residential school in Lower Post, B.C., slated for demolition: premier

After 45 years of lobbying the federal and B.C. governments, the building is slated for demolition in the spring

A building where locals pick up their mail, look for work and seek government help is a place of pain and fear for those who remember it as a residential school.

Some of the 175 or so residents in the Indigenous village of Lower Post near the B.C.-Yukon boundary avoid stepping inside, while others have described feelings of lingering tension at having to enter the building.

The former Lower Post residential school operated from 1951 to 1975 and now serves as a post office, employment centre and band office for the Daylu Dena Council.

After 45 years of lobbying the federal and B.C. governments, the building is slated for demolition in the spring, says Premier John Horgan, who went on a tour of the site in October 2019.

Horgan said being inside the building and witnessing the fear of some people who were afraid to enter had a profound effect on him. He spoke about his visit to Lower Post during last fall’s election campaign, saying he saw a room where students were sexually abused.

“I went into the basement with an elder,” said Horgan in a year-end interview. “There were two elders there — one couldn’t come down the stairs because the memories were too harsh.”

Horgan said he contacted the federal government after his trip to the community about the “absolutely inappropriate” use of the former residential school building as an administration office for the Daylu Dena Council.

The premier said there is now an agreement between the two governments that the building will be torn down and a new administration office built for the people in the region.

“I’m really pleased we’re going to be doing that,” Horgan said.

The federal government did not respond to a request for comment.

Residential school survivor Melvin Tibbet, 66, said he took Horgan on a tour of the building and replacing it will help the community.

“We suffered enough in that building,” he said in a recent interview.

“It’s going to make everybody feel a lot better when we get a new building in this community.”

Deputy Chief Harlan Schilling of the Daylu Dena Council said he’s heard the federal and B.C. government will announce plans early this year to tear down the building, but he won’t believe it until the wrecking crew arrives and he’s seen replacement blueprints.

“I remember hearing stories as a young boy that the government’s going to finally help us tear this building down,” he said. “It just turned into false hopes.”

Schilling, 33, a former Canadian Forces combat engineer, said at one point there were more than 600 students at the school from B.C.’s north, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

“There are a lot people who refused to go inside that building, some of them couldn’t even look at it,” Schilling said. “It was not a happy place. It was a hard place to work out of.”

Efforts by former chiefs and councils to get a new building were rejected over the decades by the federal government, he said. Burst pipes in October may have been its final reckoning as the band moved out of the building into trailers that now serve as administration offices, he said.

Schilling said the original residential school building, which included a dormitory, was about four times larger than the administration building that remains in Lower Post. He said a fire destroyed part of the old school.

He said he wants to see the day when elders in Lower Post who went to the school can walk into a new building to get their mail or check for work.

“It was very devastating for me to see the hurt they hold inside,” Schilling said.

“I’m really hoping this will be a success story, not just for a First Nation but for a country.”

— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Indigenousresidential schools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Local health authority maps are updated each week. The brown maps show the number of confirmed and active cases of COVID-19 for the week of Jan. 15 to 21, with the blue map showing cases over the past year. (Image supplied)
COVID-19 outbreak numbers increase at Acropolis and exposures are up in S.D. 52

Business COVID-19 safety plans are law, public needs to follow health protocols - Northern Health

Asher Hauknes shows his strength with Prince Rupert Gymnastics head coach Erin Hipkiss looking on Nov. 13. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Gymnastics Association benefits from Community Gaming Grant

Prince Rupert sports club to receive just less than $90,000 to build new facility

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue was dispatched to a boat fire on Jan. 21 at Fairview Marina. (Photo: supplied)
Boat fire under investigation

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue attended boat fire at Fairview Marina

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read