'All We Want Is Justice'
Duplessis Orphans Stage Protest. Group Demonstrates at Courthouse to Demand Cash for Sex-Abuse Victims

By Charlie Fidelman
The Gazette
January 28, 2003

Five decades of therapy has not stopped the nightmares that haunt Carmen Breton.

"I spent 14 years in an institution, abandoned as an infant," Breton, 65, said yesterday, her voice quavering.

"I was beaten, locked up in dark closets, abused. It was terrible. It's followed me all my life."

Breton was among those who took part in a demonstration held at the Montreal courthouse by the Comité des enfants victimes d'abus sexuels et physiques dans les établissements québécois.

Breton's group demands compensation for children who suffered sexual abuse.

The victims are known as the Duplessis orphans because they were institutionalized while Maurice Duplessis was premier.

"It's a question of money. All we want is justice - equitable justice - for the Duplessis orphans," Breton said of children who were abused in church-run institutions during the 1940s, '50s and '60s.

Before leaving the courthouse, the group slipped a letter under the door of an office reserved for Quebec Justice Minister Normand Jutras.

An estimated 3,000 of the 20,000 Duplessis orphans are still alive. Two summers ago, many agreed to a settlement of about $25,000 each.

But compensation was not awarded to sexual abuse victims - only to those wrongly labelled mentally deficient and interned in church-run institutions.

The scars never go away, said Breton, who has been hospitalized for psychiatric problems. "I wanted to kill myself," she said.

Disclosures of sex scandals involving the clergy have come to light in other Canadian provinces and the United States, but Quebec has yet to own up to its legacy, committee spokesperson Yves Manseau said.

"We have to destroy the myth" that Quebec was without sexual predators in church-run boarding schools, mental hospitals and orphanages, he said.

To that end, the group will participate in actions across Canada and the U.S. he said, notably a protest planned for Feb. 23 in Louisville, Ky.

"We're going to denounce sexual abuse in Canada from the United States," he said.

The Comité belongs to a loose coalition that includes the Canadian Church Abuse Survivors' Alliance, the Coalition for Action on Child Sexual Abuse in Cornwall (Ont.), the Canadian branch of Linkup, an international clergy-abuse survivors' group, and the Canadian branch of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

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