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Standing up for Indigenous students away from home

Every spring, Indigenous families across Northern Ontario simultaneously celebrate the eighth-grade graduation of their children while readying to send those new graduates away from home to attend high school. That’s because the nearest high school available to serve their kids is 600+ kilometers away in Thunder Bay. 

Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School (DFCHS) has become a home away from home for Indigenous families in communities without access to 8-12 grade education. DFCHS recruits specially trained faculty to understand the emotional and educational needs of their students and partners with the community to provide housing, and rallies community partners to mentor and keep kids safe from harassment outside of school.  

That’s how Dan Adams, Vice President in BMO’s Indigenous Banking Unit and Thunder Bay resident started his relationship with the school. Since walking through the doors in 2010, he has brought in his BMO colleagues every year to facilitate financial education workshops. Being away from their homes and parents for the first time means making daily decisions about living on a budget and managing their money. Dan and his team lead financial workshops throughout the year for the students’ parents, too, inviting them into BMO branches to provide education and resources to help achieve their financial goals.  

Back-to-school orientation is a special time at DFCHS. BMO is a proud sponsor of the school’s annual orientation “Wake the Giant,” an anti-harassment initiative organized by DFCHS teachers that culminates in a hugely popular live music festival, welcoming kids back to Thunder Bay and making a bold statement about the community’s commitment to creating spaces free from harassment and anti-Indigenous racism.  

“High school can be a tough and lonely time for everyone. I look at my own kids and I cannot imagine us not being able to sit down for dinner every night to share in their day. It means a lot to this school, to the community, and to me that these kids have a safe space,”

– Dan Adams
Vice President, Ontario Indigenous Banking Unit 

“Education and economic empowerment are two of BMO’s commitments to Truth and Reconciliation. That is why the partnership with BMO’s Dan Adams and the Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School brings a great sense of pride as they continue to work together to provide financial education and help establish an environment free from anti-Indigenous racism.” 

– Mike Bonner
Head, Canadian Business Banking, Head, Enterprise Indigenous Strategy

The community of DCFHS has become a haven for these students, supporting them through the loneliness, bullying and racial harassment that can take place in Thunder Bay, and helping them learn to live away from home for the first time.  

BMO is a leader in driving financial progress, equity and eliminating barriers to inclusion in partnership with Indigenous Peoples across North America. We are committed to investing in Indigenous businesses, communities, and colleagues to build a path for growth and prosperity to advance reconciliation and self-determination for all Indigenous Peoples. Learn more about BMO’s commitment to Indigenous Peoples in Wîcihitowin, our 2022 Indigenous Partnerships and Progress Report.   

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