Shocking and disturbing new light has been shed on the Cathedral Valley Group Home in Grandview, Manitoba in recent years. We cannot explore domestic abuse and violence without shedding light on the darkness that these children of the system have been living with their entire lives. The work camp was a government sanctioned group home for troubled boys. The camp was run from 1971 – 83 by a militant owner and his wife. The problem was not this solely. The lack of prescribed policies handed down to Henry Blake the group home operator and the lack of government intervention and input was a grave dis-service to these young boys. Given a free rein to do as he pleased, there are horror stories emerging as to the life in the rural setting. The boys were to tend farm animals and do chores, attend school during the day and also were provided with leisure time. Unfortunately, Mr. Blake had other practices that were swept under the rug for numerous years. Following is an excerpt from the Winnipeg Sun:
“Operators like Blake — with no professional background in child welfare, corrections or social work — made up their own rules and applied whatever arbitrary discipline they desired, whether appropriate or not.
There were reports of serious abuse, including Blake punching residents and whipping them on the bare buttocks.
There were reports of sexual abuse by older boys of younger ones, with no measures in place to deal with it.
Some witnesses said Blake treated non-aboriginals with greater respect than aboriginal residents. And he would humiliate some boys by putting one kid in a circle of residents and scolding him in front of everybody.”
Some of the beating were so severe that they caused injuries still felt today – 30 years later. There were allegations of sexual abuse by Mr. Blake himself. There have been suicides attributed to the psychological damage inflicted at the home. Some success stories were noted but paled in comparison to the horror stories emerging in the day and age of information. These young men have lived their life in the shadow and the fear of those early years; many have become known as the lost ones. Manitoba has offered their apology, finally, after conducting a year long inquiry into the home. Some salve for the wounds no doubt; a validation for some. While offering psychological counseling to the victims, Manitoba has attempted to right a grievous wrong from the past. But it leaves one wondering if it’s not just a little too late to put a band-aid on this wound.
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