Quebec to Give about 1,700 Abused Duplessis Orphans a Total of $26 Million

By Peter Rakobowchuk
News 1130 [Canada]
December 21, 2006

Montreal (CP) - Saying it's time to turn the page, the Quebec government has set aside $26 million to compensate the last group of so-called Duplessis Orphans.

Many of them were the children of unwed mothers who were physically and mentally abused in Roman Catholic Church-run institutions in the 1940s and '50s.

The orphans were named after Maurice Duplessis, who was Quebec premier at the time.

Michelle Courchesne, Quebec's minister of social solidarity, announced Thursday the province is putting in place a "reconciliation program" for 1,700 people who were abused in nine institutions.

They will receive an average of $15,000, beginning next April, after they sign a waiver agreeing not to sue the church, religious communities or health professionals.

Courchesne said Quebecers cannot remain indifferent about what she called "this sad episode in the history of Quebec."

"We very strongly hope today that all of them can, with dignity and respect, turn this painful page of their lives and our history."

The orphans, many of them now in their 60s, were abused in nine institutions in various parts of the province.

Bruno Roy, chairman of the committee that represents the orphans, said the dossier is now closed.

"This is an excellent thing because it puts an end to what we have been demanding for almost 15 years," he said.

But Roy said he and other orphans remain upset because the church still refuses to apologize for what happened.

"It passed on its responsibility to the government.?.?.and so the population finds itself paying for the errors of the church, which is absurd," Roy said.

A group of about 1,100 other orphans settled with the government in 2001 for about $25 million for wrongfully placing them in mental institutions.

That offer, based on a flat $10,000 to each individual plus $1,000 for each year they were wrongfully confined, worked out to about $25,000 per orphan.

Many of the orphans say they suffered beatings, sexual abuse, electroshock and even lobotomies.


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