I  was in the care of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society at the age of 2 in 1967 and made a Crown ward at the age of 10. I was in several foster homes where physical and mental abuse took place.

Being bullied in school was an everyday thing for me and running away from foster homes didn’t help my cause, But I ran away knowing when I got caught I’d be punished by being made to kneel on pencils or heating grates on the floor, being called a stupid Indian each time I did. So they shipped me off to a small town with my brother Clifford. It was the worst place they could have sent me. It was run by a family who came from Germany.

I thought I was safe there, only after two days the abuse began in earnest.I was forced to call them mom and dad. If I didn’t address them as so, I would get slapped around until I complied with their demands. This abuse continued for 2 1/2 years until I had enough, so me and my girlfriend thought up a plan to get me out of there. We broke into a hockey arena and waited for the police to arrive.  I was finally free ! Or so I thought.

From there I was sent to 311 Jarvis Street in Toronto. That’s a maximum security for youths, where I spent 10 days. From there I was sent to St.John’s Training School for boys in Uxbridge, a detention center for youths aged 11 to 16. From the very first day I was there names followed me around, such as “Tonto”, “Chief”, or “Injun Joe”. I had never fought so many times in my life trying to defend my culture and my pride. From that very first day the staff called me a tough guy and again the abuse continued– kicks to back and keys were thrown at me.

This abuse continued for almost two years right down the line, from the Brothers and staff of that place. I finally got sent to a group home in Oshawa where I ran away again and again until they finally had enough and released me into the care of my older brother in Toronto. Justice was never served. How can these people who swore an oath to protect me abuse me? To this day I carry the weight of my abuse around with me.

I am a status Indian from Whitefish Lake First Nation. I don’t think it’s fair that I don’t qualify for any compensation for what these horrible people did to me as a youth. Those of you whom are holding back your little secret please let your voice be heard and be proud to be native.

Ernie Tahgaiwenene