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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK

World: Americas

Church defiant over Quebec orphans

The Roman Catholic Church in the Canadian province of Quebec has ruled out any apology or compensation for hundreds of orphans who say they were abused while in church care several decades ago.

Around 3,000 children were brought up by the church from the 1930s to the 1950s, many of them born to unmarried parents.

In order to qualify for more government aid, the church declared the orphans to be mentally ill, and kept them in psychiatric institutions, where they say physical and sexual abuse was routine.

The government has offered around $2m in compensation to the orphans, but they are demanding around $70m and a public inquiry.

'Difficult situations'

Pierre Morissette, president of the Quebec Assembly of Archbishops, said on Wednesday the matter was delicate because of legal considerations.

But he acknowledged the church recognised some orphans went through "difficult situations."

But he said a full apology would not be forthcoming.

"Such excuses would betray the works of those who dedicated all their lives to the service of the most destitute," he told a news conference at Cap de la Madeleine, west of Quebec City.

A spokesman for the orphans said: "This is total hypocrisy. This is a campaign of disinformation. It is horrible and contemptuous."

Last year, Canada's largest protestant church apologised to the country's native people for physical, sexual and mental abuse of native children in church-run schools.

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