SK-L: Quebec's orphans still await justice (fwd)

Leslie Schentag (
Sun, 7 Mar 1999 14:30:33 -0800 (PST)

  Leslie Schentag
  Gremlin Research Consultants
  Web Site:

  "When Freedom Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Be Free"
					-F.T.W. Productions, 1992.

 "It is better to die on your feet than live a lifetime on your knees"
					-Emiliano Zapata

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 07 Mar 1999 10:41:08 -0500
From: Graeme Bacque <>
To: Streetkid <>
Subject: SK-L: Quebec's orphans still await justice

Streetkid-L: Promoting awareness of the plight of street children
and other children at risk worldwide. Your participation is welcome.
Toronto Star editorial March 7, 1999

Quebec's orphans
still await justice

Orphanages were a Quebec growth industry in the 1940s and
'50s. Families were large, money was tight and birth control was
banned. There were fewer adoptive families willing to care for
children born out of wedlock, or into poverty. Thousands were
handed to the government.

The Catholic church and other charitable groups cared for these
children as best they knew how.

Yet many suffered terribly. A parent's loving care was their
most painful and enduring loss.

The orphanages themselves were huge, overcrowded,
impersonal institutions. Discipline was strict. Some children
were abused mentally, physically and sexually. Or used as
cheap labour.

Government, church and some doctors also colluded to falsely
label children insane or retarded and transfer them to
psychiatric hospitals to get a larger federal subsidy. Some were
sedated or given shock treatment.

This past week Premier Lucien Bouchard publicly offered ``our
most sincere apologies'' for the ``misery and mistakes'' of that
period. It was a welcome, if lawyerly, gesture. The Catholic
hierarchy, in contrast, stiffly refuses to acknowledge any great
wrong was committed.

But Bouchard's proposal to create a $3 million general fund to
help meet the needs of the 3,000 surviving orphans, is tokenism.
The victims sought individual compensation, not a pooled
fund. They also want a public inquiry.

At best, ``that's $1,000 a person for children who were legally
incarcerated, falsely diagnosed, raped,'' said orphan
spokesperson Bruno Roy. ``It's a scandal on top of a scandal.''

Former Quebec ombudsman Daniel Jacoby recommended in
1997 that the ``Duplessis Orphans,'' named for Maurice
Duplessis who was premier at the time, receive $1,000 for every
year they spent in an institution. Those who were physically or
sexually abused would receive $10,000 to $20,000 more. The
total might run to as much as $40,000 each.

That's more in line with recent awards by Ottawa and the other
provinces, to people who suffered at the hands of institutions.

Federal Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart has apologized to
Canada's native peoples and set up a $350 million ``healing
fund'' for counselling for some of the 125,000 children who
attended residential schools from the 1920s to mid-1980s, where
attempts were made to erase their culure.

That apology opened the floodgates to lawsuits against Ottawa
and those groups that ran the schools, some of which are being
settled for large sums.

The Ontario government has awarded $4 million to Annette,
Yvonne and Cecile Dionne, the surviving Dionne quintuplets,
and ordered an inquiry into their mistreatment as child
celebrities in the 1930s and 1940s.

In Alberta, 500 of the 2,800 mentally disabled people sterilized
there from 1928 to 1972 without their permission have been
promised up to $100,000 each.

Quebec could do better.

This Canada-wide process of apology and compensation for
wrongs done in society's name is emotionally wrenching, costly
and complex to administer.

It is also profoundly healthy.

It reminds us of the more important requirement to protect the
vulnerable even today.

It acknowledges the suffering of those we failed.

But if apologies are to be meaningful, compensation must be

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