On the quiet morning of Sunday December 2 in Whapmagoostui, the predawn darkness was interrupted by the shrill siren of a warning system designed to go off in extreme heat or cold. At first look, it seemed to be either at the band office or the school. Two hours later, a good citizen reported fire at the Badabin Eeyou School. A team of four firefighters responded to the call and had also called for the backup assistance of their Inuit counterparts, who responded with the same quickness.

Upon arriving at the school, it was not apparent that a fire was burning until the main entrance, where thick black smoke billowed out from the main office complex. In a minute, the fire was extinguished.

At first investigation, questions arose as to the source of the fire, then it became apparent that some sort of foul play had happened. The suspicions of arson arose when it was noted that a very small area had been actually burnt, namely three file cabinets with all the school records of all students attending Badabin, including those from several years back.

Further investigation revealed that vandalism was also at play and some sort of plan had been carried out by the perpetrators, vandals who were seen fleeing the scene of the crime that morning. A window, which was not properly shut, was the entrance way and, as the vandals made their way through the classrooms, they callously damaged some classes and ripped open a condom dispensing machine, hoping to get some change, but to no avail, since there was no money and no condoms to pilfer.

As their insidious crime spree continued, they tampered with the fire extinguishing equipment and broke the glass surrounding the main office while trying to douse the office with water, however, since they didn’t have intimate knowledge of this equipment, they decided to set fire instead to the file cabinets containing all student records. Beforehand,

they effectively blocked the main door with a piece of paper, hampering the efforts of the firefighters to gain access to the office, therefore causing them to ‘resort to breaking down the door.

The building had a very good ventilation system which efficiently distributed the acrid smoke to all quarters of the school and rendered the whole building as a potential hazard to human health, resulting in the shutdown of the school for at least a week. Air ventilation experts brought in by the Ministère Education Quebec (MEQ) assessed the immediate damage; the entire ventilation system will have to be cleaned out before the quality of the air is breathable again.

Noted one local school councilor, parents and teachers alike will have to pool their efforts to reconstitute whatever scholastic records of exams and student conduct to enable the school system to function normally again, although this does set back the students by at least a week just before the Christmas holidays. The local councillor also responded that the acts of vandalism do not have a connection to recent student-teacher relations, which have been occupying the efforts of the school and teacher staff, and suspects that the acts were due to pure maliciousness on the part of the perpetrators.

Although no suspects are under custody at the moment, there are suspicions circulating throughout this northernmost Cree community and any information should be forwarded to the local police force. Meanwhile, an investigation is being conducted by MEQ of which the results will be forwarded to the Minister of Justice to aid them and the local police force in capturing the person(s) responsible.