Indeed, the bodies of hundreds or even thousands of Duplessis Orphans, buried near Quebec psychiatric hospitals, may today hold the key to documenting what survivors have called "organized psychiatric genocide."
Montreal attorney Daniel Lighter suggested that Quebec officials permit exhumation of bodies buried on hospital grounds to determine to what extent Orphans may have been used for psychiatric experimentation, including lobotomies, electroshock and mass drugging.
"One can certainly argue that a free society has a responsibility to unearth the good, the bad and the indifferent of its past," Lighter told Freedom. "There is certainly a compelling amount of evidence, even outside of a courtroom, to justify looking again at this case."
At every step of the way, the Orphans' treatment was guided by the hand of psychiatry. Documents obtained by Freedom reveal connections between the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Quebec psychiatric facilities where Orphans were incarcerated. As far back as 1922, photographs and other evidence show a relationship between these facilities and the APA.
In 1954, for example, the APA recognized Montreal's Verdun Protestant Hospital for "notable achievements" in research. Freedom asked APA spokesperson Jason Young what this research entailed, but as of press time, had not received an answer.
The APA imprimatur raises questions as to who benefited from the Orphans' false internment and why, said Lighter.
"It's a very strange link to have the APA accrediting hospitals in Quebec. Why would that be?" he asked. "It suggests that the APA was not only intimately involved but that they were coordinating the experiments. It certainly begs questions and those questions deserve answers."
A documentary that aired in September 2004 on Quebec television station TQS reported there had been roughly 300,000 children in total; 200,000 of those were adopted, while 100,000 were held in orphanages, ready for adoption but never taken. These, reporter Gary Arpin implied, were the Duplessis Orphans.
One Orphan, Jean-Guy Labrosse, 66, today a retired construction worker, authored a 1964 book about his years in Quebec institutions, My Dog's Life, which helped to bring abuses to light. "How many of my fellow [Orphans] have died, and have gone missing?" he asked in an interview with Freedom. "And when I say missing, I mean missing without a trace. In Quebec, they were allowed to kill defenseless children."
Rod Vienneau estimates that at least half of the Orphans incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals died or disappeared in those institutions. "If somebody disappeared, it's because somebody got rid of the person," he said. "They were killed or murdered."
Burned with the Garbage
Joseph Martin was 5 1/2 years old in 1938 when his parents, promised he would receive a good education, placed him in Montreal's Buisonnet Institute. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to St. Jean de Dieu, where he remained until 1956.
Upon his arrival at St. Jean de Dieu, Martin said, he and other young people were stripped of personal belongings, including jewelry, clothing, pictures of cherished relatives, money and identification.
Martin, today a Montreal cabinetmaker, readily recounts stories of abuse. He said that in 1941, he witnessed a 10-year-old boy beaten to death by two guards. Incredibly, said Martin, many of the guards hired to watch over the children were young criminals who had been in reform schools. And many guards — some of whom he named — allegedly sodomized the youths.
When Martin, after being assaulted repeatedly, complained to hospital authorities, he received the ultimate "warning." The culprits drove a knife into his left eye, blinding him, and told him that if he complained again, he would also lose the right eye.
For years, according to Martin, three children each week were victims of operations during which vital organs such as hearts, lungs, kidneys and livers were cut out and sold in the U.S. A gray-and-black refrigerated vehicle transported the organs, he said.
Carol Rutz noted, "Their organs could be harvested and sold and no one would be the wiser. They were the expendables simply because they were available."
What remained of the bodies, said Martin, would be buried in cardboard boxes, three children per box, in what was known as the "pigsty" cemetery — so named because it was where pigs were kept, and where the remains of dead swine and other animals were also disposed of.
But not all children were buried. In the early 1950s at St. Jean de Dieu, Martin said, he saw hospital staff carrying the dead bodies of children as young as 5 to a large incinerator, where they were thrown in with the hospital's garbage.
The youngest children, Martin charged, were kept out of sight in cells and cages at the back of St. Jean de Dieu under barbaric conditions — in strait-jackets, heavily drugged and befouled by their own waste.