March 12, 1999

LUCIEN BOUCHARD ``On the Record'' - Duplessis Orphans Committee's reaction to the news that Mr. Bouchard worked with religious orders

The Duplessis Orphans Committee was shocked to learn that Prime Minister Bouchard, while in private practice, acted as a lawyer representing the interests of the ``Petites Soeurs Franciscaines de Marie, one of the religious orders directly implicated in the Duplessis Orphans case.

In his 1992 autobiography entitled ``On the Record'', Mr. Bouchard listed several religious orders as clients, including the ``Chanoinesses Hospitalières'', the ``Bon Conseil'' Sisters, the ``Bon Pasteur'' Sisters, the ``Saint-Sacrement'' Sisters, the ``Antonines de Marie'' Sisters, and the ``Ursuline sisters'', not to mention diocesan authorities and numerous religious organizations.

On page 108 of his autobiography, we discover that Mr. Bouchard used his privileged association with the Catholic Church to facilitate the election of Parti Québécois candidate Marc-André Bédard during the 1976 election campaign. Mr. Bouchard goes on to say that in December 1973, as an unemployed péquiste, clients were scarce, and that one of his first clients was the ``Hôtel-Dieu'' in Alma.

On page 20 of his autobiography, he states: ``My father's five sisters entered the convent and remained there. Their brother François is a Redemptorist priest. Two of my mother's brothers, my uncles Alfred and Armand, are secular priests. My parents stopped counting how many of their cousins had become priests and nuns.''

Upon reading these remarks, the Duplessis Orphans Committee wrote to the Premier to establish if any of his family members had been directly involved in the Duplessis Orphans case. On page 37 of his book, Mr. Bouchard describes Cardinal Léger as a venerable man. Monsignor Léger and Maurice Duplessis have both been implicated in the tragic Duplessis Orphans affair, having agreed for the sum of $3 million to modify the Mt. Providence orphanage into a psychiatric asylum and thereby housing normal children with psychiatric patients.

On page 76, we discover that a former associate of Mr. Bouchard's left him in charge of three high-profile cases. ``The first concerned the sale of Chicoutimi Hospital, owned by the ``Chanoinesses Hospitalières'', to the Quebec Ministry of Social Affairs; the second, transferring the Chicoutimi Seminary to the Ministry of Education; and the third, renting the ``Petites Franciscaines de Marie'' orphanage to the University of Quebec. Mr. Bouchard added: ``For the first time, I had to deal with civil servants. They wanted to get away with paying ridiculously low prices.''

One must remember that Mr. Bouchard told the National Assembly on March 19, 1998 that he was personally handling the Duplessis Orphans case. In his own words: ``I've become personally involved with the file. I'm staying abreast of developments, asking for reports, and am also determined to find a solution to this affair. I believe that as a society, we all have an interest in turning the page and we are doing what we must to do that.'' He further stated: ``...It would be inappropriate to impose a settlement. I believe we must arrive at consensual solutions.'' As recently as March 4, 1998, this same man was imposing his will without even consulting the Duplessis Orphans Committee. It was only through a reporter's tip within an hour of Bouchard's speech before the National Assembly that the Duplessis Orphans Committee learned the content of Bouchard's offer.

In light of these troubling facts, the Duplessis Orphans Committee, through their spokesperson, President Bruno Roy, declared: ``This is clearly a conflict of interest, Mr. Bouchard should have stepped aside instead of personally taking over this file. Faced with a situation implicating the highest levels of Church and State, and following remarks made by Monsignor Turcotte and now Monsignor Morissette, we must once again demand that a public enquiry be held in order to shed full light on this tragic page in our history, one that should not be turned quite as quickly as Mr. Bouchard would wish.''

One must remember that Quebec archbishop Cardinal Turcotte continues to maintain that acts of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse represented isolated cases. Finally, one must remember that while Mr. Bouchard was making excuses to the Duplessis Orphans on March 4th, he was lauding the works of religious orders. Mr. Roy took care to reiterate that ``the public must nevertheless understand that not all Church officials are guilty of serious abuses toward children,'' and concluded, ``even though we've been engaged in this battle for seven years now, we have no intention of giving up our fight for justice.''

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