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Community mourns ‘inspiring and tireless’ educator, school trustee

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Tara Jeffrey

A longtime educator and trustee with the local French-language Catholic School board has died.

“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Mrs. Sylvie Barbeau (Chmielewski), school trustee at Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, on July 22, 2023,” the board said in a news release this week. “In recognition of her significant contributions to French-language Catholic education, the flags at the head office and all the schools within the board will be flown at half-mast for the next few days.”

An obituary posted for Barbeau noted she died after a short battle with cancer. She was 60.

“An inspiring and tireless educator, Sylvie motivated everyone she met to live their best life,” the death notice reads. “In the classroom, church, and in her personal life, her footprint of empathy and support for discriminated people defined Sylvie’s vocation.

“Only 2 weeks before her passing, she continued to serve her community with love and devotion through the mentorship of youth and helping families in need.”

For nearly 35 years, Barbeau helped ensure that young Franco-Ontarians received the best possible education, the board stated, adding that she served as a Trustee for the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence and, from 2018, represented the interests of parents in the Sarnia community at the policy table.

“Ms. Barbeau was also a teacher at École catholique Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin over the course of her career in education. In addition, she was a member of a number of Francophone community associations for many years, including Les dames de Sainte-Anne, Paroisse Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin, Centre communautaire francophone de Sarnia, Entité du Sud-Ouest Ontario, Sarnia Lambton Ontario Health Team and was a volunteer at the River City Shelter.

“Sylvie will be sorely missed. She was greatly appreciated for her tireless work on behalf of our parents and students,” said Jacques Kenny, Chair of Csc Providence. “Proud to be a Francophone and a Catholic, Sylvie never ceased campaigning to ensure that our schools would be able to offer a high-quality education to all our families.”

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help relieve some of the financial stresses on Barbeau’s children, Gabriel and Beatrice.

“Sylvie passed very suddenly and did not have the opportunity to ensure a secure future for her children as she would have wanted,” the post reads. “If Sylvie touched your life as she did so many, please consider a donation to this memorial fund for her children.”

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