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DUPLESSIS' ORPHANS

November 1, 1999


NEW COMMITTEE SUPPORTING JUSTICE FOR DUPLESSIS ORPHANS

Members criticize the positions of the government, the Church and Quebec's College of Physicians

At a press conference at the Centre Saint-Pierre today, several personalities and witnesses of the time announced their support for the cause of the Duplessis orphans. Their goal: to help those who were illegally interned in psychiatric asylums to obtain justice. An initiative of Dr. Denis Lazure, the Support Committee for the Justice of Duplessis Orphans presented historical proof to demonstrate the validity of the compensation requests. To date, committee members are:

Dr. Denis Lazure, a psychiatrist at the Louis-H. Lafontaine hospital, former minister of health for the Quebec government and co-author of the 1962 Rapport de la Commission d'Etude des hôpitaux psychiatriques (Report of the Study Commission on Psychiatric Hospitals). Said Dr. Lazure, ``I am disappointed that my former PQ comrades-in-arms have forgotten the demands made to the government in 1991 and 1992 in favour of the Duplessis orphans. Then in the opposition, we were calling for apologies for the victims, a public inquiry and compensation.'' He also stated, ``During that epoch, Church leaders were well aware of the situation, as were doctors and the ministry of health.''

The Hon. Jacques Hébert, a former senator, founding member and former president of the Human Rights League, and author of a book about a Duplessis orphan in the 1950s. He upheld the affirmations of Dr. Lazure, and proved that the situation was well-known at the time by quoting articles that were published, including those of journalists Gérard Pelletier and Alice Parizeau (Poznanska) who denounced the situation in a 1964 edition of Cité Libre with a text titled ``La protection de l'enfance, sujet interdit'' (Childhood Protection, a Forbidden Topic).

Dr. Dominique Bédard, president of the study commission that produced the report on psychiatric hospitals in 1962, and general director of psychiatry and mental hygiene at the Quebec ministry of health from 1962 to 1971. Dr. Bédard demonstrated his support by stating, ``The Duplessis children were victims of a grave injustice. And today, unless there is a major change, they will be victims of yet another injustice, which in some respects is even more serious: the refusal to fully and completely recognize the first.''

Dr. Jean Gaudreau, a psychologist and professor at the Université de Montréal, Education Sciences faculty, and author of a document detailing his observations in Mont-Providence in 1961. He wished to respond to the statement made by Mgr. Morissette, president of the Quebec Assembly of Bishops at a press conference on September 15, 1999. When asked by a journalist, ``Were you aware of these false diagnostics?'' Mgr. Morissette replied, ``I was not there, I cannot answer that question.'' To this Dr. Gaudreau answered: ``I was, and here is what I saw...'' He then described his first meeting with a patient: a 5-year-old child in a straight jacket, who had been tied to a sink. As well, Dr. Gaudreau explained that there were many children who, according to tests conducted at the time, had intellectual quotients of 105 or 110.

Léo-Paul Lauzon, professor of UQAM's Chair of Socio-economic Studies and co-author of a study titled ``Economic Aspects Related to the Duplessis Orphan Question'', which clearly demonstrates the financial motivation of the government and religious communities in this affair. In response to affirmations made by the Bishops, Pauline Lefèbvre, an 81-year-old mother of a Duplessis orphan, gave a touching testimony describing the plight of the ``unwed-mothers'' of the time and the social pressures of the Church.

Also present, as a speaker only, was Guy MacDonald, director of investigations at the Quebec Ombudsman's Office. He restated that a solution does exist to resolve this issue, as clearly expressed over two years ago in the Ombudsman's report. This report was unanimously approved by the Commission des institutions.

Also present was Nicole Filion, first vice-president of the Civil Liberties Union, in order to reiterate her organization's support for the Duplessis Orphans Committee.