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'Bomb threats' target schools in northern and eastern Ont., provincial police say

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A series of threats against schools in northern Ontario that started overnight has expanded into the eastern part of the province, police say.

Ontario Provincial Police said in an updated news release Wednesday afternoon it is "investigating multiple bomb threats across parts of northern and eastern Ontario." 

"The threats targeted multiple schools under multiple school boards and other facilities, demanding payment," OPP said.

"As a precaution, many targeted schools and facilities have been closed while the investigation continues."

At the advice of police, schools from all four boards north of Gogama – serving the Timmins area and surrounding communities -- closed for the day.

There is no evidence of actual devices and none have been found, OPP said.

An announcement about the threat and closure was first made on social media around 7:17 a.m. Nov. 1 by Conseil scolaire catholique de district des Grandes Rivieres in Timmins.

The three other local school boards followed suit shortly after.

Around noon Wednesday, CTV News Ottawa reported schools in the rural French Catholic board of Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l'Est ontarien (CSDCEO) were evacuated in connection with the threats.

 

"In (addition) to local officers, the OPP cyber investigation team is engaged," OPP said.

"The public is always encouraged to report any suspicious activity that could be a risk to public safety. Anyone with information is urged to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)."

Parents are encouraged to contact their schools or school boards for more information. 

CSCDGR's head office is in Timmins and also has satellite offices in New Liskeard, Kapuskasing and Hearst. It oversees 26 elementary schools and eight high schools.

Emails obtained by CTV News from the Northeastern Catholic District School Board and the District School Board Ontario North East told families their schools will also be closed Wednesday.

"Dear families, All DSB1 schools are closed today, Nov. 1, due to a safety concern," the DSBONE email said.

"Students who are already on buses will be brought to a central public location in each community. Schools will contact families to confirm this location and arrange student pickup. Students will engage in online asynchronous learning for the day. More information will be shared with families as it becomes available. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding as we prioritize student and staff safety."

The English Catholic school board said in its email to families the closure is under the direction of police.

"All NCDSB schools and the board office are closed due to an emergency situation relating to student and staff safety. The closures were made under the advisement of OPP. Additional information will be shared with students, staff, and families as it becomes available," the NCDSB told CTV News in a social media chat.

"We will be in touch with more information. All schools are closed today, Nov. 1," it said in its email to families.

Guylaine Scherer, a spokesperson for Conseil scolaire public du Nord-Est de l'Ontario, confirmed with CTV News in an email the CSPNE has also closed its school as a result of the safety concern.

CSCDGR said schools will reopen Thursday and provided a copy of a letter from sent home to its families.

CTV has translated the letter from French to English:

"The board received a bomb threat this morning against our schools. We immediately alerted the police forces in our regions and we proceeded with a complete closure of all our schools as a precaution, to ensure the safety of your children and staff. The police confirmed to us that it was the right thing to do.

Later in the day, the police informed us that they believed the threat to be unfounded. The audit of all our schools was therefore able to take place and, now that we are able to confirm that the places are safe, the schools will be open again tomorrow.

Student safety is always our highest priority. This is why we chose to act quickly and decisively this morning. If your child feels anxious due to the events of this morning, do not hesitate to inform your school staff: know that support is available if needed.

I would like to thank you, dear families, for your collaboration and support."

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