The Unwanted Orphans
100,000 + Abused, tortured and killed
When Shakespeare penned, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." he might well have been writing about the province of Quebec from the 1940's to the 1960's. In a scandal involving coverups, deceit, torture and death similar to what went on in Nazi Germany, the story of The Duplessis Orphans took years of political agitation and unrest to surface. And, while hundreds spoke of the torture and degredation at the hands of officials, doctors, priests and nuns, they represented thousands more who could not speak from the grave. This is their story.
Quebec's Baby Black Market
Millions Made and Thousands Sold
In researching this story that I thought I knew so well, additional details and shameful scandals came to light. It is mind boggling to think that this kind of atrocity could have taken place in Canada but it did and it was a cover up of astronomic proportions reaching beyond our borders.
In Quebec until the past few decades, the Catholic Church wielded great power amongst its French Canadian followers and even into the government. The church encouraged large families, told parents what jobs or tasks their children should undertake whether a position in the church, to care for the aging parents, farm their land or to teach. Large families and poor education created desperate situations and many families gave their children to orphanages hoping to get them back when their finances improved. Many never saw their children again and were told their children had died when they asked about them. Added to those numbers were the many children born out of wedlock and the church run hospitals and orphanages were full. A solution to the overcrowding was simply to sell the normal babies and discard the unwanted, feeble minded or deformed.
In the hospitals after the young mothers gave birth, the infants were sent downstairs to be “sorted” according to looks, often given false papers, and named according to the month of the year. Those who were retarded or deformed were initially sent to asylums and later sent to work on Quebec farms under appallingly cruel conditions. The leftover babies were put in boxes, loaded onto a boat or KLM plane and flown to France. Proof of this comes from Robert Carriere a former guard at one of the hospitals involved who kept discarded papers and took photographs. He wrote a book when he retired called Maudit Sois tu Enfant (Cursed Art Thou, Child of Sin) exposing the black market sale of babies and the treatment of the Duplessis orphans by the nuns explaining that the religious institutions kept all birth records so it was easy to alter or delete them at will.
Sadly for many of the children who were adopted their true identities will never be known as falsified papers and foggy details hinder their research at every turn. However, a few have been able to unravel the mystery and have found their birth mothers and fathers through determination and luck. Donna Roth of Michigan said that when she met other women who had been adopted by American Jewish families, they showed each other their baby photos: "There it was in black and white, baby girls and adult women who didn't look Jewish at all."
Church Cover up
The Bedard Commission was established to investigate both the selling of babies and the more heinous crimes involving drug trials, lobotomies and experimentation by psychiatrists and doctors. Nuns were given the task of caring for the orphans in orphanages for .75 cents a day. However when they realized that they would be paid $2.25 a day for children deemed mentally ill, suddenly, overnight, orphanages were renamed as asylums and psychiatric hospitals and the children within termed mentally ill. Needless to say most of the children were perfectly healthy but their world turned upside down with this decision that was to seal their fates. To this day many of the survivors have not be able to have their records altered and they are still deemed as mentally deficient. For example, Mont Providence Catholic Orphanage north of Montreal, was given 6 million dollars over a three year period starting from March 1955. This was the date when the whole third grade class was declared mentally deficient and thus the institution became a mental facility.
Over the years stories have come forward about the abuse they endured at the hands of these "Sisters of Mercy" including being thrown down stairs, electroshocks, sexual abuse, ice cold baths, beaten and tied with chains and months or years of solitary confinement for trivial offences like failing to wash a nun's socks. However, the worst was yet to come as these helpless victims became the target of even more unspeakable crimes.
The Duplessis Orphans Explained
The Victims Come Forward
1959 - Senator Jacques Hebert of the federal government wrote a book titled Scandal de Bordeaux describing how over 800 orphans were held against their will at Bordeaux Jail in Montreal under appalling conditions.
1964 - Alice Pozanska, wife of Jacques Parizeau who would later become Premier of Quebec revealed in Cite Libre of the atrocities done to orphans that were kept "ultra secret."
1964 - Noel Flavien, the first orphan to speak out, came forward.
1990 - Alice Quiton, also came forward speaking of her experiences.
1992 - More and more orphans came forward and were given television interviews as interest grew.
1992 - A police enquiry was established and 240 survivors were interviewed and 321 testimonies were given to the Crown Prosecutors Office.
Because so many of the orphans had been abused mentally, physically and sexually and their schooling had been withdrawn, they were unable to get jobs, to carry out normal relationships and to function as normal human beings. Many subsided through life coping with prescription drugs and countless other are mentally ill. In 1994 the Canadian Government awarded $100,000 to each of the 71 most severely incapacitated victims but another 253 were denied. However, in 2004 a court overruled this decision and only one victim got $100,000.
Throughout this time the Quebec Ministry of Justice denied the crimes. The Catholic Church also denied any wrongdoing saying," The Church does not intend to present any apologies to those who identify themselves as Duplessis orphans..." The church continued to maintain that the friars and nuns had devoted themselves to caring for the orphans, supporting them and enabling many to get work. They finish off by saying that the Church must help those in need today and not look back on those from the past. Five days later Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal went so far as to deny that he had ever heard of the abuse of the Duplessis orphans.
In 2003, Archbishop of Quebec City, Marc Cardinal Ouellet issued a wide-ranging mea culpa admitting that "errors were committed" in the past by certain Catholics and other church officials. He sought forgiveness for the Catholic Church's handling of sex scandals and its treatment of minorities. "It is time to take stock and make a fresh start," Ouellet wrote "Mistakes have been made which have tarnished the image of the Church and for which I humbly ask forgiveness."
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The CIA and Nazi Connection
Cover Ups at All Levels.
Day recalls, “One day there was a “priest” in the hospital known as Father Josef. Later I was shown a photo of Dr. Josef Mengele and I recognized him saying, ‘That is Father Josef.’ ” Father Josef worked in the hospital along with director Camille Laurin who would later become Quebec’s Minister of Health. Other photos have surfaced and Mengele is identified in many of them. Josef Mengele (16 March 1911 – 7 February 1979) was a German SS officer and a physician in the Concentration camp Auschwitz.
There is credence to this story as Dr. Mengele escaped Europe in 1948, some say with the help of the Vatican, and then moved about to various countries in South America and then to points north including Montreal. His work at Auschitz involved Trauma-Based Mind Control and this became the basis for the MK-ULTRA program brought into effect by Allen Dulles of the CIA in 1953. It was this MK-ULTRA program that was used on the Duplessis orphans.
Dr. Ewen Cameron of Canada was also involved and as he had served as President of the Canadian, American and World Psychiatric Associations, the American Psychopathological Association and the Society of Biological Psychiatry during his career, he was asked in 1945 to evaluate war criminal Rudolph Hess' psychological state at Nuremberg. Cameron is the subject of a book called, The Most Dangerous Game which traces the history of top-secret CIA mind control operation termed MK-ULTRA: from the covert importation of NAZI scientists at the end of WWII, to the illegal brainwashing experiments conducted on the his patients.
At the St. Jean de Dieu Hospital in Montreal, the graveyard was called the pigsty as the nun’s pigs were kept there. It is claimed that thousands of dead orphans were dumped there and countless others were sold to be dissected for $10.00 each to research facilities where no records exist anymore or never did. When the land was sold for development, workers found enough bones to fill countless boxes and bags that were obviously human but nobody would investigate further despite the public outcry.
Activist and author Rod Vienneau says that, “no court in the land wants to touch this place.” adding, “I have written hundreds of letters to every imaginable higher-official in the Vatican, in the Canadian government and in the U.S.; this is equivalent to the Canadian holocaust, but everyone in the Vatican, in the North American governments and in the media is covering it up.”
Perceived Closure and Compensation
Writer and Duplessis Orphan Representative Rod Vienneau, whose wife was a Duplessis orphan, spent seven years researching his book published in 2008 and titled Collusion: The Dark History of the Duplessis Orphans. He has interviewed orphans, medical staff, clerics, hospital directors, and nuns while also delving into the atrocities themselves. He is quoted as saying:"These criminals calling themselves doctors, have no consideration whatsoever for human lives, and I do believe, that their training came right out of Nazi Germany."
After 18 years of getting the runaround from Quebec's Justice system, attorney Jonathan Levy from Washington D.C. agreed to file a human rights complains with the UN Human Rights Council of Geneva. On November 29, 2010 the complaint was filed in an effort to seek justice from the Catholic Church, government ministries and even the media.
In 2012, the Duplessis Orphans finally accepted a settlement offered by the Quebec Government. Quebec Premier Bernard Landry offered a "fault-free" offer of compensation to the Duplessis Orphans. "It was the acceptance by our society of a sombre episode in our history." Each person received a $10,000 lump sum and $1,000 for every year spent in an asylum, which means about $25,000 per person. The orphans had been hoping for a larger settlement but choose to accept the offer noting that,"considering that some of the people researching the scandals were making $1000.00 a day this compensation is insulting and ludicrous."
The story of the Duplessis Orphans is not widely known in Canada thanks to cover ups and a lack of accountability on the part of the church and the government. When one researches this deplorable era in Canadian history it is clear that many high powered people have ties to this story and wished to keep it quiet. Sadly, no matter how many apologies are made and no matter how big the cheques for compensation, the sad truth is that countless men and women today have been robbed of productive meaningful lives and fulfilling relationships. Greed, cruelty and a lack of respect for humanity by those who were in a position of trust and power have taken all that away.
Reading and Research Material
This blog has some fascinating information and photos in it taken from a Duplessis orphan survivor at Hopital Saint Michel Archange in Quebec city (now known as Hôpital Robert Giffard) in 1949, and found in her scrapbook.
In the photo on the right Dr. Mengele is leaning over the patient on the left.