August 10, 1999

QUEBEC: DISTINCT SOCIETY OF INJUSTICE - Duplessis Orphans protest at Premiers' Conference

The Duplessis Orphans will be protesting at 11:00 a.m, this morning in front of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, site of this year's Annual Premiers' Conference hosted by Premier Bouchard who has turned a deaf ear to the victims' plight.

The victims are demanding justice and want the Bouchard Government to recognize the injustice done to them and to compensate them fairly. The victims will be enclosed in a steel fence and draped in a Quebec flag with its fleur-de-lys replaced by keyholes to recall the cells where they were interned and to symbolize the fact that they are still today prisoners of Quebec Government injustice.

Though the Bouchard Government has officially apologized for ``situations and unacceptable actions,'' it has refused to recognize the grave abuse endured by the victims while illegally interned in psychiatric asylums, despite recommendations to the contrary by Quebec ombudsman Daniel Jacoby. Mr. Jacoby denounced to Government's attitude by saying ``Quebec has refused to compensate these victims while, everywhere else in Canada, the children who were victims of such abuses have been justly and humanely compensated.'' He also sharply criticized Robert Perreault, minister of citizen relations who has stated that ``the government has no legal responsibility for what has taken place and, moreover, feels that compensating victims would not help, but in fact, dredge up painful memories. Therefore, it is in the name of charity and kindness that Mr. Perreault has justified denying compensation for these serious injustices.

The Bouchard Government has not only trivialized their plight, it has also neglected to discuss with the interested parties a special assistance fund of $3 million dollars which would represent $1,000 per victim, while refusing to compensate victims for the injustice and abuse they endured because of government actions''.

The Duplessis Orphans Committee, which represents the victims, has never been consulted or informed of any decisions made. ``The settlement of this case, because of its consequences and the condition of the victims involved, should have been discussed and negotiated as was done everywhere else in Canada,'' stated Mr. Jacoby at a press conference last March 8. ``This scandal has got to end. What has Quebec become? Canada's distinct society of injustice? It is high time that this Government stop mocking and denying our rights,'' stated Bruno Roy, President of the Duplessis Orphans Committee. ``Mr, Bouchard loves to go on about this being ancient history, that we should turn the page, that the abuse is a thing of the past while in fact, his refusal to render justice is victimizing us still today.''

According to the Quebec ombudsman's exhaustive report, ``On several occasions, orphans were beaten, tied to their beds or isolated in cells for prolonged periods of time. Many children were also victims of sexual abuse, sodomy, forced sexual acts and repeated fondling. Finally, hundreds of of them were falsely categorized as mentally ill or retarded because the Government of Quebec and the religious authorities of the day wanted to take advantage of federal subsidies intended for the health system. In order to receive the subsidies, the governmental and religious authorities turned normal children born of unknown parents into feebleminded or retarded children. Not only did these children lose their dignity and autonomy but, on several occasions, they were treated as real mental patients, with treatments ranging from electroshock, vest restraint and isolation to shackles and lobotomies. Because of this categorization, these children could not be adopted. These serious attacks on the physical and psychological integrity of these defenseless children severely compromised their normal development and behavior. These prejudices already constituted serious offenses punishable by virtue of the criminal code, as well as violations of basic Human rights which were acknowledged in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Quebec celebrated a 50th anniversary of in 1998.''

The ombudsman's report continues, ``The Government of Quebec has made a decision that was unfair and humiliating for the Duplessis Orphans, because the decision is incomplete. But the government's decision not to compensate personally the true victims trivializes the seriousness of the events experienced by orphans in these institutions. The $3 million special support fund is not intended to compensate the real prejudices suffered''. It should be noted that this fund represents $1000 per victim. A 1997 McGill University study compared the health of the Duplessis Orphans to poverty stricken individuals (less than $10,000 income). The orphans fared much worse, with stress factors, chronic illness, suicide and personal problems at the forefront. As well, 54% of Duplessis Orphans had seriously contemplated suicide whereas only 16,9% had considered it in the poorest comparison group.

Protest at Annual Premiers' Conference
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