May 24, 1999

Victims ask Premier Bouchard to re-admit them into psychiatric hospitals

The Duplessis Orphans, crying our for justice, demonstrated today, demanding they be re-admitted into the psychiatric asylums where they were raised while illegally held during their childhood. The Quebec Government continues to be in a state of denial over their wrongdoings while the Catholic Church and Cardinal Turcotte hide behind a wall of silence. The victims had in their hands the medical records that even today describe them as mentally debilitated, records that were falsified by doctors employed by religious institutions from 1940 to 1960. The Quebec College of Physicians has thus far also maintained complete silence over the whole matter.

A recent study by the Centre for Socio-economic Studies at UQUAM (University of Quebec in Montreal) shows that religious communities received higher government subsidies for the care of a mentally handicapped child rather than an orphan and that the Quebec Government benefited from their internment. According to researchers, financial profit was the reason normal children were classified as mentally deficient so that they could be transferred to psychiatric asylums. Thus far, the only offer of compensation from the Government came last March when Premier Lucien Bouchard put forth a proposal for a special assistance which amounted to approximately one thousand dollars per victim, an offer which Quebec ombudsman Daniel Jacoby described as "unjust and humiliating." Mr. Bouchard, however, rejected the idea of individual compensation. The Duplessis Orphans are among society's most vulnerable, having lost the chance to live normal lives or establish careers due to the damage from the years of physical, sexual and psychological abuse while illegally incarcerated in asylums owned and operated by religious communities. They now wish to try to put and end to their suffering by having the Bouchard Government shed full light on the abuses endured by these innocent victims. The victims wish for the Government and the Catholic Church to admit their role and responsibility in this scandalous story and then justly compensate them for the harm suffered. They are asking for financial compensation not only for the years spent in psychiatric institutions but also for having been denied an education despite the fact that Quebec law at the time stated that evey child be educated. Quebec is the only province that so far has rejected these types of claims.

A 1997 McGill University study compared the health of the Duplessis Orphans to low-income (less than $10,000) groups. 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.

The scandal has got to end. The Quebec Government as well as the Church are responsible," said Bruno Roy, president of the Duplessis Orphans Committee. "The Government cannot just take credit for their good decisions of the past. They must take responsibility for the bad ones. Lucien Bouchard must act now."

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