Digging Into Literacy

Frontier College Goes Back to the Mines

When Frontier College was founded in 1899, the mission was to increase people’s knowledge all over the country, wherever they were located. One of the earliest populations to benefit from Alfred Fitzpatrick’s far-reaching philosophy was the men who plumbed the depths of the mines. At the time, most miners were new to Canada and were learning English, along with how to negotiate life in their new country and the loneliness of being separated from their loved ones while working in remote outposts.

Modern-day Canada has little in common with the country that inspired university students to take up the call to bring literacy to all Canadians. For instance, it’s hard to imagine our only communication with friends and family being handwritten letters. For many of us, the world is a lot smaller now than it was 116 years ago.

But people are still turning to the earth for its resources, and, once again, Frontier College is entrenched in these mining communities, which are usually located in small towns and fly-in communities. Since 2014, we have worked with employees of the De Beers diamond mine at the Victor Mine in Timmins, Ontario (90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat).

Today, our tutors work to improve mine employees’ skills in computers, reading, writing, math and problem-solving. They also teach English or French as an additional language. Mines have a diverse array of job opportunities, including excavating, lab work, transportation, maintenance, food services, security and leadership roles. What may be the most significant change from our early days is that, among employees at the Victor Mine, many are women and almost half are Aboriginal. We’re proud of our role in helping people forge a new path in an industry that is at the heart of our organization.