When Bishop Demers had requested that the Sisters establish a school in Victoria, he had envisioned that a mission school would be established, to educate the Metis and First Nations children, in particular. These boys and girls would be taught reading, writing, math and science, along with Christian Doctrine.
The Student Register, written in French in the early years, lists “Les Indiens” amongst the pupils, and as the school continued to operate, First Nations girls came from the Cowichan Valley, north of Victoria on Vancouver Island, to board at the Academy. Pupils on a band list had their tuition paid by the government, including their uniforms and expenses; the official encouragement to attend the Academy continued into the final years of the school’s operation. The girls at the school forged strong friendships, and the Sisters often point out the lack of racism and segregation amongst the students.
There were less tolerant times, in the past of Victoria and the Academy. In 1859, the Select School was opened, for the instruction of the white pupils. A small number of students of colour were instructed at the Day School. This regrettable segregation ended only months later, when the Day School was shut down by the Sisters, who had set out to accept everyone who desired an education equally. The issue of First Nations students in schools set up by the colonial government is a topic that has been addressed by a number of authors, included in our bibliography.