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Quebec Premier Nixes Orphan Funds

May 31, 2000

QUEBEC (AP) _ Premier Lucien Bouchard rejected a petition Tuesday calling for an increase in a compensation offer to children forced to live in orphanages where they say they were beaten and raped.

There are about 3,000 so-called Duplessis orphans, many who were born out of wedlock in Quebec and forced to live in Roman Catholic church orphanages when Marcel Duplessis led the province in the 1940s and 1950s.

Some of the orphanages were reclassified as mental health facilities to make them eligible for government money. Many of the Duplessis orphans claim they were abused at the institutions, including that some were given electroshocks and confined to straitjackets even though there was nothing wrong with them.

Bouchard’s government has apologized to the orphans and offered $2 million in compensation. The orphans want $13,425 each, for a total of more than $40 million.

Bouchard said the government intended to give the orphans compensation as a group, not individuals, and that society is unable to revisit or correct all the wrongs of history.

The Roman Catholic Church has refused to apologize to the orphans, saying such an act would deny the important contributions made by religious communities under difficult conditions.

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