The New Boys

The New Boys

| 27 min

This short documentary takes us to St. John's Cathedral Boys' School, at Selkirk, Manitoba, one of the most demanding outdoor schools in North America. As the school can’t accommodate every student wishing to enroll, boys of 13 to 15 years old are put through an initiation tougher than they have ever faced. They paddle canoes through some 500 kilometers of wilderness in 2 weeks, portaging and camping all the way, thereby learning vital outdoor lore, cooperation and self-confidence.

The school opened in 1962 on the former Dynevor Indian Hospital, which was operated by the Anglican Church from 1896-1957. In the decades following the release of this film the school was the subject of multiple lawsuits pertaining to sexual assaults that occurred there and even student deaths due to its arduous outdoor activities.

  • director
    John N. Smith
  • producer
    John N. Smith
  • writer
    John N. Smith
  • photography
    Paul Van der Linden
  • sound
    Hans Oomes
  • editing
    Marrin Canell
  • sound editing
    Bill Graziadei

The New Boys
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  • None

    I attended this school of ‘hard knocks ‘ for just a year (69/70), despite my father wanting me to go there for my entire 4 years of secondary school- the discipline learned was invaluable, but the level of corporal punishment was ‘over the top’( I had over 100 seats by Christmas); best lessons learned were those from the behaviours of some of my fellow students: those who were con artists, bullies, pathological liars: the main lesson being” others can’t be trusted till they earn one’s trust”; that being said, I would never send a son of mine there, irrespective of how bad their behaviour

    None, 19 Jun 2022
  • None

    I went there in 1982, it was interesting nothing like a public school, i do feel some discipline was not needed (swats) the masters/teachers were on to much of a power trip at times via swats. I did enjoy the school, i liked the canoe trips and the education. I believe that some of the students there needed the discipline, i needed the education, i had the discipline already. What i hated to most since i smoked was that the masters smoked on the canoe and we could not, making a bum wad wasn't something i was used to. I did how ever take off from the school to go to Selkirk to get smokes and pop and chocolate bars , i made it back no one missed me lol i ran fast and hard. I used to sell smokes and coffee to. I didn't like tea. I got the hot water from the hot water tank. Lots of students ask me for coffee 25 cents a cup 50 cents for a smoke. Most all students did not want to drink tea while our masters drank coffee, nothing wrong with a little bit of entrepreneurship I wish the school was still up and running i would work there but i would not be a dick lol This was a good video, to bad the guys suffered from cold weather, we had warm weather we were lucky i guess. The food on the trips were something to be desired they could have done better. We did have a issue with the vice master who was charged with sexual assault, the school fired him instead of going to the police. Some of the students committed sueicide, i found out years later, i woke up that nite in my dorm, there were 4 of us in the dorm, the vice master told me to go back to sleep, while he was assaulting my room mate and friend, not a very good memory to keep. to all the students that read this Stay Strong Stay Brave God Be With All Of You.. WES

    None, 18 Aug 2020
  • 749

    I was on this trip and thought I was going to die, it was cold, rainy, and miserable. My most memorable moment was when Teacher Weatherby threw my raincoat overboard, I had forgotten to tie it down.

    749, 28 Feb 2020
  • None

    I want to St. John's and it was an important experience for me. Some didn't like it, and at the time it was very difficult, but I needed it and without that my life likely would not have gone nearly as well. Thanks to all the masters and all involved in the amazing vision Frank and Ted shared with us all. Fritz Schulze - 402 - SJCBS

    None, 9 Mar 2019
  • mattgrannary

    I was also a student in the same class as Thearcher. It was a really difficult and long time and it took an even longer time to recover. I don't really have much to say anymore. I've made my peace with the years I spent in SJSA Alberta but I will never forget it. 1555

    mattgrannary, 3 Dec 2013
  • Thearcher

    This is a great video, and perhaps the best insight that anyone will ever get into the Saint John's schools. Why is it considered by many of the oldboys to be weak to say the school was abuse? It isn't normal to remember being hit fondly I believe. This video, despite its gritty nature, still goes easy on the school because cameras were there and that changes how people act. This is not the documentaries fault. Not enough nearly enough of the swattings. Bullying was brutal. I went to the Alberta school in the early nineties for six years, and though this video is old, its amazing how much of Saint John's remained the same. I am 33 and still dream of it.

    Thearcher, 3 Dec 2013
  • sac

    I'm with Conrad505. Started 1/2 way through grade 6 when there was a grade 6. Was real tough, watched the road hoping my mother was going to rescue me then, realizing that wasn't going to happen had to assimilate. Nothing wrong with the schooling, outdoor activities or "masters". For a buck a day it was a real sacrifice for them, all about ideology. very interesting film, remember many of the faces and the names, especially that flick of the wrist Weatherbee had! Damn that hurt! Frank, Byfield, Tack and Spike (the 2 Smiths). Jones family, Oilers, Neeland, I could go on, all brought something to help us along if we ever stopped to realize it. Was there for 5 years and wish the school was still there. My brother hated it, was there for 3, but wasn't a wimp, faced the challenges and didn't run away. god bless Frank and Ted for the vision of the school.

    sac, 11 Oct 2013
  • OldBoy

    Great to find this doc, I got voyageur's ass all over again watching the boys paddle. Was a great (in hindsight) experience but would not want to repeat it. My years were about 71-73. All these people screaming abuse is crap. We had our rough moments but we made it and grew stronger from it. Damn life IS abuse, so get over it. Hey roughwater, I did the Grande - they ran you back 3 times it is utterly amazing. Doing it once is an accomplishment. All I can remember was thirst, thirst, thirst, there was a creek about halfway. I salute this school, all the master's who vested their lives in this for a buck a day. I thank you all. Sure it was a hard go but I think all of us who went there came away blessed. Any old boy wants to contact me - go ahead conrad505 @ My school number was 505, go figure. Thank you again, all the masters at St. John's Thank you Sir's! And thanks to all my school buds for sharing the experience with me, as hard as it was.

    OldBoy, 17 Aug 2013
  • JenniferYates

    Why can't these (now men) sue? It shouldn't matter about the time frame, they were used and abused and it appears as if these adults get off on making their young lives miserable, at least that's what I have come away thinking.

    JenniferYates, 9 May 2013
  • AlexKusic

    I would like to know more about St. john's since my late brother Aleks attended it back in the early 70's along with other boys from Wawa. i also meet then in Fort Francis one year during the Grand Portage trip with my Dad and Betty C. Whose son Mark was also making that canoe trip. i would love to hear from others who attended school and the same time who have stories and photos to share. Thank you.

    AlexKusic, 14 Apr 2013
  • vembapet

    I hated St. John's. Ran away umpteen times. Glad it's closed. Too bad we can't sue the bastards, parents included.

    vembapet, 8 Dec 2012
  • inroughwater

    Correction, it was the fall of 1967 not 1968.

    inroughwater, 22 Mar 2012
  • inroughwater

    I was one of these boys in the fall of 1968. I'm 59 years old now and the film crushed my heart. I don't know how but looking back we should have turned on all of them. Our new boy trip started at Grand Portage, Minnesota and ended in Fort Frances, ON. We had good weather which infuriated Headmaster Frank Weins. I was one of the bigger boys and carried box of pots, pans, and axes on portages. Frank and I made it to the end of first portage (9 miles) together. He sent me back to the start to help the others. I covered 27 miles that day and got to camp helping with the last canoe. I don't remember if I ate but I know it was dark.

    inroughwater, 22 Mar 2012

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