Historical and Evolutionary Aspects of Institutional Child Abuse and The Way Forward For Redress
ROCH LONGUEÉPÉE, Founder & CEO, Restoring Dignity
THE ELEVENTH GRANGE RESIDENTIAL CONFERENCE,
CASTLE, HARROGATE, ENGLAND
Thursday, September 27TH, 2012
Honored Guests, Honorable members, friends and delegates, good morning, my name is Roch Longueépée. I am the Founder and CEO of Restoring Dignity currently based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It is an honor to be here with all of you today.
Restoring Dignity is a non-partisan, non religious based NGO, inspired, in part by “Restoring Dignity" The Law Commission of Canada's March, 2000 report on Child abuse in Canadian institutions. Restoring Dignity is an international organization that works with people who, as children, were abused under the auspices of institutions. As part of our mandate we also work on the issues of poverty in Canada. The guiding principles and values of Restoring Dignity embrace the dignity of individuals and cultures and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unlike many groups involved in the field of institutional child abuse, Restoring Dignity works with all forms of institutional child abuse affecting all cultures, marginalized individuals and groups as well as children. In an effort to educate society on the issue of institutional child abuse, Restoring Dignity has set out to define what an institution is and the role institutions play in society, in particular those, which work with marginalized groups, cultures and children.
Restoring Dignity is also involved in aiding institutional child abuse survivors to establish civil remedies and other forms of redress within Canada. Restoring Dignity recognizes that not only have survivors experienced unspeakable abuses as children, but also as they become adults and parents they may be powerless to stop the cycles of abuse from continuing in their own families and communities. For this reason Restoring Dignity opposes adversarial approaches to redress and healing
Restoring Dignity is the first and only organization of its kind in the world. We research the issue of institutional child abuse from a historical and global evolutionary aspect. The two key mandates of Restoring Dignity are redress and prevention.
I come to England because of my deep interest and affection for the ties our respective nations share on the problem of institutional violence and exploitation of children. I have journeyed a vast distance today to present the case for these victims, survivors and their communities around the globe devastated by institutional violence and exploitation of the young.
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I speak to you today not as a leader on this cause, nor as a survivor but as a citizen of the world. I come today to share a message of humane purpose.
And to impress upon you that we, each of us, must do our part to ensure that humanity is afforded to all who suffer this injustice. Our whole nation is continually degraded by these practices and polices which ignore our common humanity. And in denying the least among us that, we deny our own.
In that context it is my hope that we can all forge new relationships to join in an inclusive effort and partnerships. And in the cause of that effort, let us seek to promote the welfare and best interests for victims of institutional violence and exploitation.
Today, I want to touch on a number of items on the subject of institutional child abuse.
I will speak briefly about what this organization's definition of institutional violence and exploitation against children. I will touch on some of its various forms, many of which are generic. I will cover the historical and global overview of this institutional violence and exploitation. Finally I will touch on Restoring Dignity's models for redress and preventative models.
Matters of institutional child abuse affect a variety of groups around the world. Yet when we think of this term we often think of institutions like residential schools and orphanages. However, the meaning of institutional child abuse does not simply refer to the 'institutionalized state'.
Child abuse itself is nothing new in society. In fact, research shows issues of child abuse as far back as 2000 BC. The term abuse refers to a measure. Abuse can be seen as anything, which causes harm as a result of excessive behaviors.
Well-known poets wrote of the disgraceful societal value placed on children. William Blake once wrote in his work piece entitled “Jerusalem”: And did the Countenance Divine Shine forth upon our clouded hills? /And was Jerusalem builded here / Among these dark satanic mills?”
What Blake is referring to here is the child labour in industrialized pulp mills during his times. Dictionaries define the word „institution‟ as That which institutes or instructs; a textbook; a system of elements or rules; an institute. An established or organized society or corporation; an establishment, especially of a public character, or affecting a community; a foundation; as, a literary institution; a charitable institution; also, a building or the buildings occupied or used by such organization.
When referring to an institution, we should also think of any government, religious, secular, or charitable body charged with the care of children. The meaning of the term has been misinterpreted for many years, but it takes on a more literal meaning as society begins to grapple with the impacts of institutional violence and exploitation.
For the purposes of Restoring Dignity,
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“Institution” is defined as:
a. a system of elements or rules,
b. any public, private, or non-profit organization for the promotion of a specified activity,
c. an organization founded especially for educational, religious, or social purposes, for profit or
d. any of the premises associated thereof;
and “Institutional Child Abuse” is defined as:
a. improper or unlawful treatment of, neglect of or interference with children, any breach of statutory obligations regarding the care of children, any breach of morals or trust with respect to the care of children, treatment of children that would be considered unacceptable in the broad community, regressive social trends that may cause harm to children, any deficits or inconsistencies in policy, practice or reporting mechanisms that result in harm to children, or any other act or omission which causes physical, emotional or psychological harm to children;
b. any action which results in the unjustified displacement of children, or loss or separation of children from their culture resulting in harm to the children whether or not such action is sanctified by legislation;
c. any systemic factors that contribute to the occurrences listed in (a) or (b);
d. any failure to prevent or detect any of the occurrences listed in (a) or (b); or
e. failure to alleviate or rectify the trauma suffered by children in (a), (b), (c) or (d);
that occurs in or is because of an institution.
Simply put, the term 'institution' does not require one to consider only a physical building. The misconception in part, clouds the role institutions play in our society. Robert Kennedy once wrote:
Part of the sense of helplessness and futility comes from the feeling of powerlessness to effect the operation of these institutions. The CAPs [Community Action Programs] must basically change these organizations by building into the program real representation for the poor...giving them a real voice in their institutions.
That is just it; institutions grow so large that they assume their own identity and purpose, rather than the purpose for which they were founded.
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Our understanding of institutions and the role they play in our daily lives must be clarified and the boundaries thereof established. Robert F. Kennedy. Once said, The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use — of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.
Intuitions have long played a major role in the way in which our world continues to evolve. The word ‘evolve’ does not necessarily mean ‘progress’ and all too often is simply the opposite. Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato engaged us in the discourse of republic and subsequent democracy. From this first understanding, we find institutions in various fields from business, government, social and religious movements.
In a time when nations in the western world first began, they were referred to as ‘dominions’ under the rule of the British Empire.
From a proper context of definition institutional violence and exploitation against children comes a history, which spans over four centuries. It marked a time of the British Empire, a time when marginalized groups like children were defined as ‘the lower social orders’.
During the late 1600‟s, Christian charities, governments, and groups sought out a means of seeding the empire of the undesirables. Many children who were taken, were born out of wedlock, came from broken families, from impoverished backgrounds, some were simply ‘waifs’ or ‘strays’. For too many, their birth records were misplaced or destroyed.
The ‘who’ and where their families of origins lay have been lost forever to them and their future generations. Identity is a crucial part of human development. The loss of that identity and disconnection from their families and communities has been tragic. Australia’s Alan Gill, author of "Orphans of the Empire, writes:
Child Migration was devised as offering underprivileged children a 'new start' in a fresh country. It was also a way for Britain to solve its social problems. It was a means of 'seeding the empire', and was pursued with missionary zeal. The children were not adopted out, nor were they, in the usual sense of the word, fostered. Though government sponsored, the sending and receiving agencies were for the most part Christian charities who shared this goal and saw their work as inherently noble. “The receiving Countries shared Britain's enthusiasm. The desire of the Dominions - in particular Australia, Canada, and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to increase their white, preferably Anglo-Saxon populations coincided with the desire of the mother country to rid itself of excess children of the lower social orders.
These child migrants were sent to mothering countries to orphanages to be used as child laborers. The Home children or 'Homies' were sent to family farms by sponsoring organizations to be used as cheap labor. Young girls born out of wedlock were condemned to indefinite servitude in the Magdalene Laundries, where they were forced to work to atone for their “sins.”
Between the late 1860's and the mid 1930's more than 100,000 children left the extreme poverty of Britain behind and came to live with Canadian farming families. These children, usually orphans or from families unable to support them, were typically employed as either domestics or farm labourers in Canada.
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They were commonly forced to sleep in the barns where the farm animals slept. (http://www.pier21.ca/Home_Children.2799.0.html )
In Canada, some 100,000 children were migrated under child labour schemes. Halifax, Nova Scotia 's Pier 21, served as one of the many receiving ports during the child migration schemes. These schemes ran until the 1980's.
Hundreds of thousands children were sent via ships to the mothering countries. For better or worse, these children are among the nation builders in each of our now respective countries. They were brought in as cheap labour, sexually and physically abused, neglected, and murdered.
A number of these children faring the seas to their final destinations did not even survive the voyage. A number of these ships were lost at sea due to inclimate weather. These children were long forgotten.
The dark ships that carried them here are no more - they still are…. The orphans, known and unknown and for those who survived enduring homelessness, poverty, violence, crime, suicide and death - We remember, and we will not allow the world to forget.
Evidentially, the sending countries were predominately Anglo-Saxon. The values that flowed from that time period are very much inherent in Western Society. The rippling effect of these values represents our governing political systems. Most people are so hopelessly dependant on that system that they will fight to protect it.
As Western civilization evolved, the value systems of these times laid the foundation for human rights abuses around the world. The centuries that followed would see those value systems inflict abuses upon minority groups, children and marginalized groups.
Child welfare did not evolve from human rights but rather from property rights and values. Is it any wonder that after so many years of enacting human rights, that we continue to grapple with these issues? Both the social and private interest sectors continue in their attempts to dominate the other. These sectors have tried to establish a partnership of mutual interests. The many attempts have failed simply because their inherent values are not compatible. In a free and democratic society, at best we can only hope to coexist while ensuring the welfare and best interests of the public good.
The’ institutionalization' of children, has proven to be destructive. Children need families; institutions cannot be the parents for any child.
The Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada said it best in his official national apology for the Canadian Indian Residential Schools scheme to the aboriginal peoples of Canada:
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We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow and we apologize for having done this.
I quote from the June 30th, 2010, British Prime Minister's Question Time in Parliament: Gary Streeter, Conservative MP, South West Devon:
Thank you... Thank you... Mr. Speaker...Thank you.
Mr. Speaker, About 5,000 young people a year leave local authority care and without any parental support many of them end up on the streets or in our prisons.
Does the new government have any plans to intervene more effectively into this vulnerable group to try and improve their life chances?
Rt. Honorable Prime Minister David Cameron:
Look, my old friend is absolutely right to raise this. And we really do need to do better as a country. The fact is, it’s around 9.6 % of children are in care. But when you look at our prison system it is 23% of adult prisoners were in care.
We've got to better. One of the problems is children leaving care aged 18, unlike other 18 year olds; they've got nowhere to go. They've got no one to help them. We've got to do better. We are looking at this area and I recognize that dealing with the scandal of the poor outcomes for children in care is something frankly that everyone in this house ought to support.
In March 2000, the Law Commission of Canada produced a Report to Parliament entitled “Restoring Dignity: Responding to Child Abuse in Canadian Institutions”. The Report provides recommendations for redressing child abuse in Canadian Institutions. This report, while good, is not thorough. Little research has been conducted on institutional child abuse, in part, due to the lack of an accurate definition. The issue of institutional child abuse involves, in all respects, marginalized groups and individuals.
One of the most notorious cases in Canada involves the deaf community. It was 1991, when a scandal of child abuse at British Columbia’s Jericho Hill School for the deaf and blind made headlines across Canada. Jericho Hill School, a residential school, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, would become the first case of institutional child abuse involving deaf children and one of Canada’s most infamous.
Over the first few years of its operation, Jericho Hill School was rumoured to be one of the best residential schools in the world for deaf children.
Jericho Hill School: its mission was to provide the best education to deaf and blind children anywhere. Over the decades of its operation it would see children from all over North America. Sadly, those who constructed the physical structure did not see the isolation the children of Jericho would face, the isolation of deafness.
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For many deaf children leaving their families and familiar surroundings, their new home would only add to that isolation. Behind the walls of Jericho lay a dark secret history of physical and sexual abuse, the sexual abuse of young children ignored by the government ministries until the abused would become abusers and the abuse that would infect students at Jericho for decades. Victims would go on to abuse other children until the abuse became a right of passage and thus became normal.
The inaction of governments responsible for the school would once again see new horrors surface in newer realities. Outside the walls of Jericho, former students would go on to offend as adults. The cycles of abuse would find its way into victims‟ family homes and communities; while living in a group home, one former male resident stabbed and killed another over sex. The waves of pain would continue for new students at Jericho, their families and communities. By the time the cycles of abuse had reached the communities at large, rape charges against former Jericho Hill Students would bring police investigations back to Jericho Hill School. Police investigators would find incidents of abuse at Jericho as far back as 1945.
Historically, society’s treatment of the deaf and hard of hearing culture has been disgraceful. In 1906 the province of Ontario, Canada passed a bill, banning the American Sign Language from use in deaf education. The 1906 legislation denied the deaf culture their basic human rights, condemning them to impoverished conditions.
In 1993, provincial legislators changed the education policy recognizing the American Sign Language (ASL) ‘ as a language of instruction’. Still to this day, the deaf culture continues to struggle from this legacy. Eighty percent of deaf and hard of hearing persons are unemployed in Canada. In deaf communities where institutional violence and exploitation took place, the unemployment rates are at ninety five percent.
Society, sadly, has a tendency to label those victims who became abusers as ‘evil’. I do not believe in evil, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. If there is any evil here, it is the omissions and commissions of government and organizations responsible for these horrors. In a landmark case involving the Roman Catholic Church clergy sexual abuse scandal, Ontario Superior Court Justice John Kerr summed this issue up best. In this particular case, the diocese attempted to counter sue a victim who had abused his younger brothers. The diocese claimed the victim turned abuser was partly responsible for the suffering of his siblings when he sexually abused them, but Kerr said he found no merit in that argument. He said Blaming John for his assaults would be similar to blaming Frankenstein's monster for his actions, rather than attributing its behaviour to the scientist who created it.
Fintan O'Toole, an Irish reporter for the Irish times, said it best when he wrote;
The state to put it crudely had been remarkably good at taking vulnerable, neglected and abused children and turning them into drug addicts, prostitutes, and criminals.
On of the date of the Law Commission of Canada’s report to Parliament, entitled Restoring Dignity: Responding to Child Abuse in Canadian Institutions, Canada, during the decade prior to March 2000, over 5,210 victims filed claims of physical and sexual abuse, cultural eradication, sterilizations, and genocide, involving over 72 residential institutions.
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Many children also died due to the severe negligence and physical abuse they received at the hands of their caregivers.
Worldwide there are mass gravesites of children buried in unmarked graves, their identities unknown.
In Ireland, the industrial schools are embroiled in scandals of physical and sexual abuse and the mysterious deaths of children.
On the grounds of the Artane Industrial School, located in the county of Artane, Dublin, Ireland, lay a mass gravesite of children buried one on top of another in unmarked graves. It is estimated that around 120 children died in these institutions between the 1930s and 1970s.
In Canada the aboriginal communities affected by the Indian residential school schemes have been exposing mass gravesites to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or otherwise known as the TRC’. The TRC forms part of the Canadian Residential Schools settlement is tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by institutional offenders in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past.
Children would also become pawns for governments, agencies, and law enforcement collaborating with notorious criminal regimes like Germany’s notorious Nazi Party who would use children as study subjects for scientific research. One example in Canada is the case of the Duplessis orphans based in Quebec, Canada. ‘The Duplessis Orphans’ case is widely recognized as the largest case of institution-based youth abuse in Canadian history. (http://members.tripod.com/~rootsunknown/intro1.htm)” There are about 6000 survivors, who as children were put into orphanages and psychiatric institutions.
The premier of the province during that time was Maurice Duplessis, thus the name. The survivors claim that while in institutions run by Catholic religious orders, they suffered harsh treatment and sexual abuse. It is believed that most of the "orphans" were in fact children born to unmarried parents.
Since this was during the 1930's, '40s and '50s they were left in the care of religious orders that operated orphanages. In some cases those establishments were transformed into health-care facilities and in other cases the children were shipped from orphanages to existing hospitals. At these hospitals that were also run by religious orders, the Duplessis' Orphans claim doctors wrongfully labelled many children as mentally deficient. The reason for all this was that Quebec could obtain more federal funds for health-care facilities than for schools and orphanages. More money for Quebec meant more money for the religious orders. “By being labelled mentally deficient the children were given treatments such as being strapped into straightjackets, electroshock therapy, excessive medication, detainment in cells and even lobotomies. Their stories of physical and sexual abuse are frightful. For those orphans who survived, when no more financial gain could be achieved by keeping them, they are (sic) released from their dreadful existence behind those institution walls. With no education and false medical records they were unprepared for adult life. Even traces of their families have been snatched from them. (http://members.tripod.com/~rootsunknown/intro1.htm ) The victims also claim to have witnessed the murders of other residents. In some cases child victims were so severely neglected they died as a result. The child witnesses live to this day with the horror of these last images. Many of the victims have never been found.