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Religious orders reacts to reports of abuse by “Duplessis Orphans”

The Story


Sister Gisèle Fortier admits in this CBC Television report that while her colleagues may have been strict, they undoubtedly had the best of intentions. Orphans who were once under their care disagree. Now adults, the Duplessis Orphans describe childhoods marked by abuse and imprisonment. Nuns in the province are calling for a full investigation into these fresh and dark allegations. They insist that their good names must and will be cleared. 

Medium: Television
Program: Newswatch
Broadcast Date: Aug. 21, 1992
Guest(s): Gisèle Fortier
Reporter: Rosemary Thompson
Duration: 2:00

Did You know?


• Many of the Duplessis Orphans recalled being pulled from their studies and forced into farm labour or hospital maintenance. The orphans said that this action rendered them completely unprepared to cope in the outside world once they were released from the hospitals.

• University of Montreal sociologist Nicole Laurin argued that withdrawing children from school was not uncommon in Quebec during that era. For example, she indicated that many farm children during the 1940s never attended class and stayed at home to help labor in the fields.

• Laurin defended the religious community. "The nuns gave their lives to Quebec society. For decades. They were paid nothing. And now we are turning around to blame them. I find it odious," she said in an interview with the Gazette, Nov. 22, 1992.

• Daniel Simard disagrees with Laurin's claims. He was a social worker in 1951 and recalls the uncaring atmosphere of the Quebec orphanages. "What struck me the most when I visited the orphanages was the lack of love," he told the Gazette. "The nuns showed no kindness or affection to the children. It was as though they were making the children expiate the sin of being born illegitimate." - in the Gazette, Nov. 22, 1992

• In 1992, the Comité des orphelins et orphelines institutionnalisés de Duplessis (COOID) was created to head their legal battle.


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