As much as we all try to make things happen right, people still fall through the cracks in our system. Raymond Duff is one of those people. There is no blame attached to any organization that Duff dealt with. It was just a series of events that show us all that we still have work to do.
Duff was informed by the Quebec government he had to go back to school since he was a registered apprentice for seven years and then after the course he would be a licensed electrician. So Duff went back to school at Aviron Technical Institute to take an Electricity in Construction Course. He did some night courses in September leading up to a full-time position in February of this year. He paid the $10,000 tuition fee out of his own pocket. He moved his wife and four children to Kahnawake. He wasn’t eligible for El insurance as he was ten hours short. He fell through the first crack in the system.
Duff went to see Cree School Board Chair Mabel Herodier about some funding. He was told that the Cree School Board didn’t fund apprenticeship programs. The Nation asked Cree School Board official Jane Blacksmith about this case. Blacksmith said that they didn’t usually fund these types of programs since apprentices were paid a salary by a company to go to school. Duff never talked to one of the post secondary technicians about his not getting paid to go to school and never applied after his talk with Herodier. Duff slipped through the second crack. He was advised to try the Cree Human Resources Department. Duff said he requested a letter of refusal listing the reasons why but has never received one.
Duff applied to the CHRD but his application never made it to the board as it was refused internally.
One of the criteria for acceptance in any CHRD program is that the applicant must live in a Cree community. Duff was by now living in Kahnawake and thus fell through the third crack in the system. CHRD, though, advised Duff to apply for the Urban Strategy Program for Natives. Duff applied, only to be refused as he was living on a reserve. Urban Strategy advised him to apply under a Kahnawake program. The fourth crack swallowed Duff as easily as the rest.
Duff then headed to the Kahnawake Band Council with yet another application in hand. He was refused as he wasn’t Mohawk and advised to return to Urban Strategy. This was the fifth crack in the system Duff couldn’t step over.
“By this time I was getting desperate,” Duff told the Nation. “I was living on just family allowance and whatever my parents could send me for the past eight months. Hydro was ready to cut off my power and the people renting the house to me were ready to evict me. I went to the Chisasibi Band Council for help.” The Chisasibi Band Council loaned Duff enough money to pay for his hydro and rent. His fellow students like Duff so much they have all chipped in to buy his textbooks and even though he has all these problems he still has a 95 per cent average. Duff estimates he owes close to $20,000 now. “I still have three months to go,” said Duff, adding he wasn’t sure how he was going to do it. “I hear about all this money they got. I don’t really see why they can’t help me.” No entity actually did anything wrong in this instance. In fact everyone I have talked to is sympathetic to Duff’s plight, but cite the criteria needed under the programs. Since everyone followed the rules then perhaps the rules and regulations need to be changed or more Crees will end up like Duff in the future.
In the meantime, Duff still needs to get through school so perhaps some kind souls in each community could start a Get Raymond Duff Through School Drive and drop the proceeds into Duff’s account at the Toronto Dominion Branch # 40841 Account # 3109041. Surely ambition like this shouldn’t be lost.