DUPLESSIS' ORPHANS

Copied from the Montreal Gazette

September 16, 1999


Church tells Duplessis Orphans no

CP contributed to this report

Association says bishops are acting with 'contempt,' may seek help from Bouchard

The Roman Catholic Church won't issue a blanket apology to Quebec orphans who say they were beaten and sexually abused in church-run psychiatric institutions.

Yesterday, the Assembly of Quebec Bishops quashed any hopes the Du-plessis Orphans had that, several decades after the events, a broadly worded "we apologize" would be forthcoming. The assembly said it had consulted on the issue since March.

"Such a gesture (an apology) would constitute a rejection of past work done in difficult circumstances by the religious orders," said Msgr. Pierre Morissette, head of the assembly.

"It would betray the work of those who dedicated their lives to the poorest in society.

"The church will not turn over any financial contribution to individuals or a fund to provide aid to the Duplessis Orphans.

"We feel that the church has already given much and that it continues to give generously."

Morissette said the church will continue to work with Duplessis Orphans who need help reintegrating into society.

"It's preferable to give our time and energies to those who ask for our help," Morissette said.

'Ignoring History'

Bruno Roy, president of the Du-plessis Orphans Committee, said yesterday that the church is ignoring history in its refusal to apologize.

He also accused church authorities of failing to recognize that the abuse was not merely a few isolated incidents.

"They absolutely refused to apologize and they are assisting in an operation of disinformation. And now they are treating us with contempt," Roy said.

"While they refer to isolated cases of violence, they refuse to acknowledge that thousands of orphans were systematically interned in institutions."

Now the committee is looking to a tentative meeting with Premier Lucien Bouchard as a possible step toward what it considers proper compensation. Roy said his group and the premier's office are negotiating an agenda for the meeting.

A Bouchard aide would neither confirm nor deny that a meeting is being planned.

The orphans - often poor or illegitimate children - were made wards of the state between 1940 and 1960, when Maurice Duplessis was premier and the church's influence was everywhere in Quebec.

Abused in Institutions

The orphans contend that between 5,000 and 6,000 youngsters were put in institutions where they were subjected to beatings, electric-shock treatment and sexual abuse.

About 3,000 orphans are still alive.

Last October, Bouchard met with committee representatives in a meeting that was kept under wraps for months.

That meeting eventually led to to an official apology from the Quebec government in March that was backed up by a $3-million offer in health and social services.

In doing so, the government ignored a recommendation by the province's ombudsman, who said the surviving Duplessis Orphans deserve between $60 million and $100 million in compensation.

The Duplessis Orphans still refer to the government's offer as an insult.

The Orphans Committee also is calling on Roman Catholics to boycott the church collection plate starting Oct. 3.

During the boycott, orphans and their supporters will greet parishioners at as many churches as possible to hand out information fliers and ask people to place part of the flier in collection plates in lieu of money.

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