April 26, 1999

Duplessis Orphans expose Government and Church financial motives

The Duplessis Orphans have today revealed shocking information exposing the financial motives behind the wrongs done to them while they were illegally held in psychiatric institutions between 1940 and 1960.

This took place at a press conference held today at Montreal's Centre Saint-Pierre. This was in reaction to recent statements made by Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, who excused their treatment by referring to the ``values at the time'' and Montreal Archbishop Mgr. Turcotte and Mgr. Morissette, president of the Quebec Council of Bishops, who spoke of nothing more than their ``compassion,''.

Thus, they felt it necessary to present a study on the financial motives that led to the transfer of these normal children into psychiatric asylums. They mandated researchers to identify the real economic motives prevailing at the time and behind the Quebec Government and the Catholic Church's attempts to sweep the matter under the rug by downplaying the facts. Following their research and analysis of historical documents, the team of researchers at UQAM's Centre for Socio-Economic Studies (University of Quebec in Montreal), led by Professor Leo-Paul Lauzon, c.a., and Martin Poirier, arrived at these conclusions:

    - It was definitely to the financial advantage of certain religious
institutions to transfer these normal children to psychiatric hospitals, in
order to profit from a higher daily subsidy for each child it was established
that the religious communities involved were able to obtain, in 1999 dollars,
an additional $70 million for the years between 1940 and 1960 (a mentally
deficient child would provide greater subsidies than a normal child).
According to the analysis, this amount represents a minimum amount since it
does not take into account the unpaid labor which the children were forced
into during their stays in these asylums. The financial advantages for the
Quebec Government, though much more difficult to evaluate, are no less real.
The meager sums spent by the Duplessis Government on orphanages and
psychiatric institutions greatly contributed to the problems of these
children. As well the Quebec Government encouraged the confinement of these
children to psychiatric institutions, rather than invest in the welfare of
these beneficiaries in order to themselves profit from more generous federal
subsidies available for healthcare. Finally, in the case of the
Mont-Providence hospital, the Quebec Government is directly responsible for
its conversion to psychiatric facility as of 1954. This change led to the
confinement of approximately 350 normal children in a psychiatric asylum.
    - Thanks to this the Government was able to save $9.8 million in 1999
dollars in debt repayment to the federal government and was able to avoid
paying an estimated $27.5 million for the refinancing of Mont-Providence
between 1954 and 1961, for a total savings of $37.3 million. It is clear that
the financial stakes were high and that this resulted in the religious
institutions and the Government of Quebec confining children who were their
wards into psychiatric hospitals.
    ``The case of Mont-Providence while better documented was not unique.
Despite the vow of poverty the nuns took,  there was no such vow taken by the
religious orders who profited to the tune of millions. It is quite undeniable
that these children's future were sacrificed for purely economic reasons.''
stated  Bruno Roy, President of the Duplessis Orphans Committee.  And, in
light, of these facts, added Mr. Roy ``The Bouchard Government and Quebec's
Catholic Church must react in order to put a stop to this scandal.  It is high
time that they stop turning a deaf ear, admit their mistakes, and offer
genuine compensation to these innocent victims, a position supported by
Quebec's ombudsman and the public.''

A copy of the report was sent today to the office of Prime Minister Lucien Bouchard as well as that of Cardinal Turcotte, accompanied by a letter asking for immediate action and that justice finally be rendered to these innocent victims.

Support from Civil Liberties Union
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