Any and all information relevant to abuses or human rights violations reported in this article should be sent to Freedom to forward its ongoing investigation.
If you have other data regarding psychiatric experiments upon children, or the use of violent or coercive psychiatric methods against them, Freedom also wants to hear from you.
Send full information in writing to Freedom Magazine, 6331 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90028.
Robbed of their childhoods and their educations, Clarina and Simonne are two among perhaps 3,000 surviving “Duplessis Orphans.”
Naming themselves after former Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis*, many of these individuals, like Clarina and Simonne, were in fact not orphans at all, but had been born to poor families that had difficulty caring for them, or to unwed mothers. Although no official tallies were kept, over a span of several decades, it has been estimated they numbered in the tens of thousands and perhaps as many as 100,000.
As bad as things were, Clarina and Simonne consider themselves luckier than most of the Orphans — Simonne managed to escape after several years and, when her family learned of the sisters’ ordeal, they freed Clarina on May 8, 1953.
Like many of those who suffered, Clarina chose not to talk about her experiences, preferring to put the past behind her. She went to work as a seamstress in Montreal, abandoning her plans of working for an airline and seeing the world, but grateful to once again enjoy freedom.
In 1965, she met Rod Vienneau, a singer and songwriter who also worked as a construction worker and miner. They married in May the next year. For decades, she kept her terrors at St. Julien a secret from her children and her husband.
Only after the truth about the Duplessis Orphans began to emerge in the 1990s did Clarina share her story with her husband and, ultimately, with Freedom.
Their World Turned Upside Down
Today, Rod Vienneau, as founder of the Commission for Victims of Crimes Against Humanity, represents survivors who seek to expose and bring to account the psychiatrists and government officials responsible for alleged crimes and abuses against the Orphans.
Since 1992, when he obtained Clarina’s medical files under Canada’s Access to Information Act, he has investigated abuses against the Orphans, also leading protest marches, letter-writing campaigns and other activities to draw attention to injustices at many similar facilities — such as Mont Providence in Montreal, converted from an orphanage and school to a psychiatric hospital in one day.
At that institution, since renamed Riviere des Prairies Psychiatric Hospital, Vienneau said, “Overnight, they emptied the classrooms, got rid of the books, and put bars on the windows. They turned the rooms into cells.”
The morning the children’s nightmare began at Mont Providence, the nuns, instead of wearing their familiar black-and-white habits, dressed in white — a stark sign of conversion to a psychiatric hospital.
“The children had a life before,” said Vienneau. “There was schooling. They could play. All of that changed. It was hard labor. No more learning.”
At psychiatric facilities throughout Quebec, he said, “They used the Orphans for the dirty work.”
Normal boys and girls in the child welfare system were degraded and dehumanized, he said, coerced via pain and punishment into becoming a slave-labor force in the province’s mental institutions. Instead of learning to read and write, they swabbed floors and hallways, cleaned the clothes of adult inmates, washed adults incapacitated by drugs, shocks and lobotomies, and served in other menial, often backbreaking capacities — all for the profit of their psychiatric overlords.
As with Clarina and Simonne, relatives who placed children in Quebec orphanages customarily had been promised they would receive a "good education” if turned over to the institutions.
Instead, for decades, psychiatrists falsely declared thousands of them to be mentally ill or retarded. The children were moved to psychiatric asylums or, as at Mont Providence, facilities were converted to mental institutions. The psychiatric labels enabled institutions to obtain “nearly twice the amount per child, and sometimes more, depending on how children were classified and where they were placed.”2
Although their poor performance on I.Q. tests stemmed from a lack of schooling, normal children were stigmatized with such psychiatric tags as “idiot” and “imbecile” — false labels that destroyed their lives and haunt survivors to this day.
Evidence unearthed by Freedom in its ongoing investigation, which began in 1999, points to the Duplessis Orphans as the largest instance of institutionalized child abuse in North America.
The death or disappearance of many children and young adults — Vienneau charged that 50,000 innocents were thus victimized — drives human rights advocates to demand a thorough investigation, particularly of psychiatrists and others who benefited from the mass tragedy.
False Label Brings
25 Years’ Incarceration
To date, no criminal court or human rights body has examined the alleged atrocities. Because of the lack of a probe, no psychiatrist engaged in or connected to alleged crimes against the Orphans — including experiments with brain-damaging drugs, electric shocks and lobotomies — has been charged, despite evidence of duplicity, misconduct and harm.
On June 22, 1967, for example, psychiatrist Louis Roy examined Duplessis Orphan Joseph Sylvestre as an outpatient at St. Michel Archange, a psychiatric institution in Quebec City since renamed Robert Giffard Hospital. After the examination, Roy failed to change Sylvestre’s earlier, false childhood diagnosis.
Years later, in 1991, Sylvestre approached Roy for assistance in finding a job and subsequently received a letter from Roy in which the psychiatrist admitted that Sylvestre had never been mentally ill.
“You were never mentally ill and you are fit,” Roy reportedly said.
The scandal was reported by the Journal de Montreal in 1992. When contacted at his office by the Journal, Roy confirmed the facts concerning Sylvestre — “my good friend JS,” as Roy called him.3
As early as 1962, a Quebec government body known as the Bedard Commission acknowledged that the Orphans had never been mentally ill or retarded and that they had been fraudulently labeled.
Despite this, Roy was never charged with wrongful diagnosis or any other crime, even after admitting in writing that Sylvestre had wrongfully spent 25 years confined to the psychiatric institution where Roy was the director.
Roy, now 75 and retired, admitted to Freedom that he had misdiagnosed Sylvestre, offering as excuses that Sylvestre had already been a patient when he took over his case and that things were “different” back then.
Roy said that no disciplinary action had been taken against him because Sylvestre had “only” received psychiatric drugs, not a lobotomy or electroshock. He refused to comment on whether there should be a public inquiry into the case of the Duplessis Orphans, but admitted he saw many abuses when working at St. Michel Archange. Due to his advanced years, he said, he wants to forget the past.
“He may want to forget it, but Roy and other psychiatrists created evil and destruction, and victims live the nightmare to this day,” said Denis Coté, a spokesperson for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights** in Quebec. “Psychiatry sentenced these Orphans to degradation, misery and, in many cases, death. After the lid started to come off, psychiatrists engaged in damage control to protect their own incomes and reputations. They played no part in helping the survivors.”
* Duplessis was Quebec’s premier from 1936 to 1939 and from 1944 to 1959. Due to human rights violations, electoral fraud, use of state powers against critics and other abuses, Duplessis’ tenure has been called “the Great Darkness.”
** The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was established by the Church of Scientology in 1969 as an independent organization to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.