Members of the Duplessis Orphans group demonstrate outside the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, Friday, April 2, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Members of the Duplessis Orphans group demonstrate outside the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, Friday, April 2, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

June 7, 2021

The Hague:

The International Committee for Missing Persons (ICMP) is a Hague based international organization works with governments, and others globally to address the issue of people who have gone missing because of armed conflict, human rights abuses, organized crime, and other causes. The ICMP are specialists in locating, recovering and identifying missing persons which often includes the grisly work of locating and documenting mass grave sites.

Canada and the world were recently shocked by the revelation of 215 juvenile graves found at the site of a former Indian school run by the Catholic Church in Kamloops, British Columbia. Unfortunately, as advocates on behalf of the Quebec “Duplessis Orphans” well know the dark legacy of state sponsored juvenile abuse was also part of the social fabric of Quebec from the 1930s to the 1960s when approximately 100,000 foster children were victimized by neglect, medical experimentation, electroshock and abuse in province sanctioned, Catholic Church run facilities.

In Quebec the motive was financial, under the corrupt regime of Maurice Duplessis, the federal government paid the province to care for these children. The province in turn made a devil’s pact with the Catholic Church and its orders to provide so called social services at bargain rate prices. Children of single mothers and of partial First Nations parentage were targeted as well as well-meaning lower income parents who were promised that by relinquishing parental rights their children would receive a good education from the Catholic Church. Quebec received a federal contribution of about $1.25 a day for every orphan, but more than twice that, $2.75, for every psychiatric patient. So Duplessis and Quebec’s Catholic Church hit upon the idea of transforming $1.25-a-day orphans into more profitable $2.75-a-day psychiatric patients. The result was part of the la Grande Noirceur or Great Darkness as long-time orphans’ advocate Rod Vienneau has termed the event.

Vienneau’s organization, Comité Les Enfants de la Grande Noirceur, has filed lawsuits and petitioned the federal and provincial governments, the United Nations and Vatican, only to find tight lipped bureaucrats and closed doors. According to Dr. Jonathan Levy, the London based lawyer for the group: “The Kamloops tragedy may provide the catalyst for a final accounting of the grave sites we know about. The federal and provincial government have shown no appetite for this project, but these child victims deserve better than to be unaccounted for in unmarked graves.”

Dr. Levy further points out organizations like the ICMP help us get past the prejudice and bias that even today prevents an objective examination of the now discredited social policies of the Quebec government and Catholic Church of which children were the ultimate victims.

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