Friday, 12 May 2017

The Duplessis Orphans - Canada

This post was tagged on the Tuam Spirit Babies Facebook page recently by composer Alyssa Rivers. I hadn't heard of the Duplessis Orphans and with trepidation of what I might find googled the subject. What I discovered was deeply disturbing and so horrific that it has taken almost a fortnight to get over it. Just imagine living with the terrorising aftermath of the actual events. HORRIFIC. We need to keep reading these articles and keep being SHOCKED because these atrocities were carried out time and time again by RELIGIOUS ORDERS on innocent babies and children and the RELIGIOUS still own valuable swathes of land and assets built on the blood and bones of the innocents in their 'supposed care'. It's time to call it out-once and for all.

What is genocide? In 1944, Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) coined the term "genocide" in a book documenting Nazi policies of systematically destroying national and ethnic groups, including the mass murder of European Jews. He formed the word by combining geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with -cide, from the Latin word for killing. 

[G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; 
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; 
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. 
Horrific systematic acts took place in institutions all over Ireland and abroad and it's time we started to actually think in terms of this being a GENOCIDE. Stripping people of their identity, taking every thing they owned including their hair and sexuality, wiping them out through neglect,starvation and abuse then placing them in mass graves is what is termed as GENOCIDE. 

'Eerie and Shocking' Parallels Between Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland and the Duplessis Orphans in Quebec
I'm a Canadian composer currently in Europe conducting research for a new work funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. Shortly after arriving in Ireland at the end of February, I was shocked to learn of the case of the Tuam babies – where 796 are believed to be buried in a mass grave, in what once was an abandoned septic system.
My most recent intermedia work, O douce Providence / O Gentle Providence, a stage performance premièred last July at the National Gallery of Canada, has as a focus the witness account of Hervé Bertrand, once an orphan who was abused in a mother and baby home in Canada. When consulted with on the subject, Mr. Bertrand said the similarities to the past care of children in religious run homes in Ireland are ‘eerie and shocking’.
Hervé, 74, was placed in the care of the religious orders in Quebec because his mother was an unmarried teenager. Social workers who later helped him trace his family said his father was Irish and was in the Canadian army at the time. During those years, he said he was raped regularly by a male employee who worked at the orphanage and has suffered considerable trauma throughout his life. He is one of thousands of children known as the “Duplessis Orphans” who were in the care of a number of religious orders in the 1940’s to the 1960’s. Mr. Bertrand said he was ‘shocked’ to read about the case of the Tuam babies where 796 are believed to be buried in a mass grave and wants to travel to Ireland and meet survivors and their families.
Hervé is still ‘reliving the horrors’ of the home and can sympathise with survivors in Ireland. He said: ‘I was shocked to read about the story of Tuam, I can see the similarities, unmarried mothers going into homes and their children disappearing or dying. ‘There is a mass grave in an institution where I was brought to have an operation following a particularly brutal rape and the children who died were taken there to be buried. It had been previously used as a pig’s mud pit.
‘I have so many memories of the three different homes I was placed in. The Gray nuns were a little cruel, less so than the Sisters of Providence who were cruel. We were locked up and treated like patients who were mentally ill when we were not.
‘The nuns and orders treated people so badly, I can relate to what has happened in Tuam’.
The Catholic Church ran a number of mother and baby homes in Quebec, in Canada where some children from there were eventually confined to a psychiatric institution when they got older. The Church and the provincial government of Quebec which was led by a strict Catholic called Maurice Duplessis, made a deal which falsely certified around 5,000 orphaned children as mentally ill and confined the children to psychiatric institutions.
In registrations similar to those in the Tuam mother and baby home, children in Quebec were also classified or registered as “mentally handicapped” while children in Ireland were called “congenital idiots”.
The deal was beneficial for the Church and the hospital because for each child who was committed to the hospital, the nuns received funding. A Commission into the homes in the 1960’s revealed how one third of the 22,000 patients did not belong in the psychiatric institutions.
In 2004 the Duplessis Orphans group asked the Quebec government to exhume the bodies of the orphans in the mass grave in Montreal because no excavation has ever taken place. This remains the case to this day.
The mother and baby homes in Ireland which are now being investigated by a Commission of Inquiry revealed how children were dying at abnormal rates and mass graves are believed to be on the grounds of all mother and baby homes here.
Born on 26 January, 1943 in Montreal, Hervé Bertrand was placed in a mother and baby home (which were known as “crèches”) from the age of 2 days old until he was five. When he was five he was transferred to an orphanage called Côte de Liesse, which was also run by the Gray nuns. He was then transferred to another institution run by the Sisters of Providence that later became a psychiatric institution while he was there.
Hundreds of children died in these institutions. Those victims who survived in mental-health hospitals told horrifying stories of how unspeakable things were done to them when they were young.
While in Ireland, I met with the survivors and attended the various debates in the Dáil regarding the Commission of Inquiry. As the survivors in Ireland and the Duplessis Orphans in Quebec are anxious to meet, a video conference is being planned for the end of May.
Hervé is now looking forward to travelling the world, to tell the world about his story and that of the Duplessis Orphans, as a Canadian and international tour and bringing O douce Providence / O Gentle Providence to Ireland is being planned.
For more information about O douce Providence / O Gentle Providence, please go to: | Facebook: /alyssaryvers | Twitter: @alyssaryvers | Instagram: /alyssaryvers

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