Canada

Ontario woman wants apology for abuse suffered decades ago

An Ontario woman is asking the government for an apology for being incarcerated decades ago for being 'incorrigible.'

An elderly Toronto woman plans to keep fighting for an apology and compensation for abuse she suffered decades ago in a provincial reformatory.

Velma Demerson was arrested and jailed in a tiny cell 60 years ago after authorities decided she was "incorrigible." Demerson says her only crime was falling in love with a Chinese man.

Now she wants Canadians to understand how she was punished to clear the names of others like her.

Demerson says she was in pajamas when police burst into the home where she lived with the Chinese man she was in love with. She was questioned by a social worker about her morals and then sentenced to a year in a reformatory.

Even years later she still becomes upset when she recalls the tiny cell, the silence and the forced visits to the doctor.

Demerson, who was pregnant, gave birth while in detention. Her child was taken away until her later release.

She was one of hundreds, some estimate thousands, of women who were deemed incorrigible. That label was used in Ontario to brand women who were found drunk, or pregnant and unwed.

She waited for decades until her personal files were released before she could prove how she was treated and fight for an apology.

For 70 years the province could arrest women aged between 16 and 35 under the Female Refugees Act.

Demerson wants an apology from the province, but a court has ruled that Ontario is immune from lawsuits stemming from incidents before 1964.

She is hoping to appeal.

The NDP and the Ontario Federation of Labour are urging the province to stop fighting the case and just acknowledge that the laws were wrong, so that Demerson and others can move on.

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