Saint John's Cathedral Boys' School

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Saint John's Cathedral Boys' School (SJCBS) was a school that was located in Selkirk, Manitoba. It was founded in the early 1960s by Ted Byfield and Frank Wiens. The two started an Anglican lay order called the Company of the Cross, claimed to be based on a reading of some of C.S. Lewis's writings. The Company of the Cross was under the authority of the resident bishop in Winnipeg, officially called the Diocese of Rupert's Land. The teachers were paid $1.00 per day and provided room and board. Two other schools, Saint John's School of Alberta and Saint John's School of Ontario were founded on the same ideas in later years. Arduous row-boat trips (called "cutters"), later replaced by canoes, and snowshoeing and dog-sledding were part of the outdoor education program. The school's founders believed that boys should be pushed to what they might believe is their breaking points, and this would "build character". The school was seen by many as a way to help troubled boys, usually from 11 to 14 years of age.[1] Its primary focus was challenging boys from every social stratum to work together in order to grow morally, physically, intellectually and spiritually in the tradition of Victorian "muscular Christianity".[citation needed]

Ted Byfield wrote in 1996 that rules were enforced with a "flat stick across the seat of the pants" in the early years of the school.[2] In the article, Byfield defended this practice as acceptable at the time.

The students ran the physical plant of the school, doing all the janitorial work, cooking and serving food, cleaning kennels, making and selling processed meat products door-to-door for fundraising, and raising sled dogs.[3] A boy died in the 1970s while on one of the school's lengthy snowshoe hikes.[4]

The school closed in the early 1990s, struggling for funds and credibility after a canoeing disaster on Lake Timiskaming where 13 people died of hypothermia.[1] In 1973, the National Film Board of Canada produced The New Boys, a documentary about a school canoe trip, as part of its West series for CBC-TV.[5]

In 2000, former teacher Kenneth Mealey pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 5 students in 1982 and 1983. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation article on his sentencing said that "St. John's school administrators knew about the assault allegations but chose to fire Mealey instead of calling the authorities".[6]


  • Pelton, Robert Young (19 June 2001). The Adventurist, My Life in Dangerous Places. Broadway. ISBN 978-0767905763. 
  • Raffan, James (18 April 2002). Deep Water. Phyllis Bruce Books. ISBN 978-0-00-200037-6. 


  1. 1.0 1.1 Peake, Michael (Summer 2002). "Deep Waters: Courage, Character and the Lake Timiskaming Canoeing Tragedy" (Book review). Journal of Canadian Wilderness Canoeing. Che-Mun. 
  2. Byfield, Ted (21 October 1996). "Do our new-found ideas on children maybe explain the fact we can't control them?". Alberta Report. Edmonton. 
  3. "Abuse claims investigated at boys' school". Anglican Journal. Toronto. January 2000. 
  4. Slade, Daryl (8 February 2003). "School sued after 26 years". Calgary Herald. 
  5. "The New Boys; a documentary about a school canoe trip". National Film Board of Canada. 1973. 
  6. "Guilty plea on sex assault charges". CBC News. Toronto. 12 October 2000. Retrieved 14 August 2007. 

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Coordinates: 50°08′48″N 96°53′13″W / 50.1467°N 96.8869°W / 50.1467; -96.8869