The Duplessis Orphans Committee is shocked at the recent statements made by the man who heads the Quebec Catholic Church and the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops. In an effort to move towards reconciliation, the Orphans have invited Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte to meet with them publicly with the media as witness.
In the past few days, the Cardinal visited with the media in order to explain his position of indifference on the Duplessis Orphans matter. The Duplessis Orphans tragedy refers to the children, who, in the 1940s and 1950s, were made wards of the Quebec Government and raised in large orphanages operated by the Catholic Church. At the time, because the Government wished to continue receiving Federal government subsidies, Quebec's Premier Maurice Duplessis and the Catholic Church, agreed, among other things, to convert the Mont-Providence orphanage into a mental asylum, in exchange for $3 million. Doctors were ordered to alter the medical records of theses children, labelling them mentally deficient thus submitting them to treatments normally reserved for such patients: straightjackets, electroshock therapy, excessive medication, detainment in cells and even torture as well as lobotomies.
They endured physical and sexual abuse by the religious personnel and their staff. Many of these facts are outlined in a 1997 report by the Quebec Ombudsman Daniel Jacoby, which indicated the Quebec Government was able to keep its share of the cost of caring for these children to a minimum by placing them in Church-owned psychiatric hospital, which were eligible for Federal subsidies.
Cardinal Turcotte stated his position blaming others but protecting the Church. In an interview on Montreal radio station CKAC as well as in major daily newspapers, notably Saturday's Journal de Montréal where he was quoted saying ``If the Government of the day did not assume its responsibilities, let them apologize! If the doctors did not do their jobs, let them be sued! But if the nuns acted badly, then let them first prove it!'' He repeated similar statements at least one other time during a separate interview on CKAC radio last Friday. In response to a question on the abuse of children in orphanages while under the jurisdiction of the Catholic religious communities. He is quoted as saying, ``For this, in any case, they must produce proof.''
Cardinal Turcotte appears to be unaware of the widespread abuse of these helpless children while wards of the Quebec Government and the Catholic Church, and the mountain of evidence that is available to demonstrate this. Mr. Bruno Roy, president of the Duplessis Orphans Committee has stated ``Cardinal Turcotte shall have his proof!'' The proof requested can be made immediately available to the Cardinal and is particularly shocking. One orphan Hervé Bertrand, who was sodomized over 30 times by the staff of Mt. Providence and who has medical records to prove it. He is willing to show the Cardinal these records, which support his claim. Furthermore, Mr. Bertrand, who, like 3000 other of these children, was labelled mentally deficient as a child (which was refuted by a 1994 psychiatric assessment) is willing to submit to a polygraph test to prove he was raped and physically abused while detained at this still notorious institution, now called Rivière-des-Prairies Psychiatric Hospital.
Several other Duplessis orphans are willing to come forward and submit historical documents and their own medical records documenting the widespread abuse. To this end, Cardinal Turcotte is being publicly invited to a meeting where he will be presented with the proof be is demanding, with the media as witness, the meeting, to be scheduled immediately is meant to remove any doubts by the public concerning the honesty of their claims and the legitimacy of their demands for a full public inquiry, which was requested in a letter to Premier Lucien Bouchard dated February 4, 1999.
``The Cardinal claims that all that is missing here is proof,'' states Mr. Roy. ``Well, we have this proof ready to provide to the Cardinal. If he is being sincere, all he has to do is come to the meeting. That is not so much to ask.''