The Forgotten: The children of Marian Hall speak – The Fifth Estate

They took me from my
parents, and put me in juvenile detention and
that’s where I stayed. I was sent there because they
couldn’t handle me anymore. And I remember believing
that I had gone to jail, I was in jail now. It was a nightmare
for these kids. Absolute nightmare. ♪ ♪ I remember the sound of
them locking the top door. Those kind of things
like, don’t leave you. Part of why I like to
do this, tell the story, is because I think it’s time
for the kids to speak, you know? ♪ ♪ [film projector whirrs] [voice-over] For
close to five years now, Quebecers have been witnessing
a horror story relating to the treatment of children
in the province’s 71 juvenile detention centres. [Colleen] What was done to the
children in that era was wrong. [Rita] They just took us, they
threw us away and they locked the doors and said,
you’re not our problem anymore. [Eleanor] It wasn’t
a detention centre. It wasn’t a help centre. Marian Hall was a prison. A girl’s prison. So Ellie found another girl,
Pam, from Marian Hall. I had found Rita. And then Ellie found me. And then there were three,
and then Ellie said, I know where Morag is. I believe it’s probably
Ellie again, found Carol. So we created this chat room and
it was kind of a safe place to touch on Marian Hall. I think in the beginning
it was more of a, “Oh yay, we found each other,”
and then everybody went, “Oh wait, we found each other,”
and then when Gillian joined in, it was like it
exploded all of a sudden. [Gillian] I was a journalist
most of my working life, I’m now semi-retired. My tranquillity of retirement
was interrupted with a brush with something
from the past. And all of a sudden on my tablet
up came a message saying, “Are you the Gillian Cosgrove
that wrote about the punitive conditions in Quebec
juvenile detention centres?” And I was shocked. Well, I was one of
the girls that was there, I found a few
girls that were there. We’ve all had difficult lives. For years, I’ve thought
of what you’ve done and I want to say thank you. It is refreshing to know
that someone cared and we were never alone. [Gillian] These are
my files from 1973, 4, 5. Oh, there’s a picture of me. Well, I was certainly
inexperienced as hell. Green reporter. I was fresh to the
social affairs beat. Maybe a month or
two, I’d covered it. I went to visit a social worker
on the English side in Montreal, and I said, “What are the
biggest problems in Quebec?” And he said,
“Well, the fact that children’s prisons
still exist.” And I said,
“You’re kidding me, right?” Can’t be. This is not the dark
ages, it’s not medieval time, this is 1975 Quebec and we
don’t have children’s prisons. He said, “Well,
go see for yourself.” I went undercover. And I went in as an educatrice,
it was more in the… custodial role rather than a
rehabilitative role in any way. Notre Dame Laval was a,
like a clearing house. It was the point from where
I could see the inner workings of the system. It would take in
all sorts of girls, runaways, truants,
juvenile delinquents, special needs kids
and psychiatric patients. One of the really awful things
about it is they put them all into the same melting pot. It was new. It was modern, it was clean. It wasn’t Dickensian in
any way, on the appearance. But inside, the
treatment certainly was. [♪♪] [voice-over] Once again there’s
a public uproar over the way children in Quebec are
treated in detention centres. Gillian Cosgrove is on
the line now from Montreal. [Gillian] That children
are placed in solitary cells in the basement. They’re dragged down by guards. It’s a method of containment
which was dropped by even psychiatric hospitals,
something like 150 years ago. To leave a kid on
a concrete slab. I mean, I can’t believe it. [Gillian] Those scenes that
I saw in solitary confinement, they will remain
with me forever. She was strapped down,
large leather straps across her chest and her legs. And she had
handcuffs on as well. And she also was in
her feces and urine. Left in it for a day. That was their “treatment”. [Gillian] At the time,
the government said, “We’ve got to revamp
the whole system.” We have to look at the whole
youth protection system in Quebec and we need to
rewrite the laws if need be. There was a sense of relief,
like I can breathe again. Things are gonna change. We’re gonna have reform,
the kids are not gonna be treated like criminals. And so that was my relief,
and I happily went on with my life. Do you want me to shut these
curtains? [Eleanor] I think I might be
ten here and that’s my father sitting in front of me. And in amongst all those
pictures there was a few with my dad like here and there. And I ripped them all up. I didn’t realize I still
had one with him in it. This is our place in Verdun
when I was eight, nine. My parent’s bedroom is
behind these two pillars. That was where it started,
was in his room. He started off by doing
little things, you know? Like, rubbing my back or… His mentality was, he said,
“I’m gonna teach you what girls need to know. I’m gonna teach
you what boys like. And that’s my job
to teach it to you.” And, so, over the course
of the next couple of years, he showed me what oral sex was. He showed me what
masturbation for girls was. And, just, it was
just a constant thing. Constant. I somehow thought
I was gonna get in trouble from my mom for this. I didn’t tell ’til I
was about 11 years old. I found out later on
that my father signed me into Article 15, ward of the court. Without my mother’s knowledge. We had to go in front of
the judge and they just said, “Okay, well, take that
one to Marian Hall.” And I’m thinking,
“What’s Marian Hall?” The Marian Hall
is an institution, detention centre,
in Beaconsfield, Quebec. And I remember
this lady, some lady, brought me up and told
me to sit on this bed. And I could hear
these girls coming, like my heart just pounding
in my ears and wondering like, who are they, and
what’s going to happen now? One of the girls said,
“Have you ever sniffed glue?” And I was like, “Oh yeah. Yeah, I sniff glue
all the time.” And I had never sniffed glue. And she brought out
this bag with this glue, and we started huffing glue. Yeah, that was my
very first introduction to coming into Marian Hall. Okay, so I’ll show you
a picture of Marian Hall. God, love them. We had a swimming pool. And there’s Collie and
that’s me doing my Cannonball. Yeah. And you see, like, there’s–
this is all buildings here. There’s a building here. And then there’s a building
here and then there’s a building here, so you couldn’t get out. I don’t know why social services
got involved in our family. I do believe it was a truancy
officer because of my school, I didn’t go to school. Because I wanted to
stay home with my mom. My mom was, she was really sick
and she was in bed and I don’t know why she was in
there, she couldn’t get up. I was– I was just going on 12. Oh, there is it. She’s a staff at Marian Hall. She was really nice. The other staff members,
they didn’t care and you knew they didn’t care. Like, if you cried, they
threatened to throw you into the hole, which they did
actually to me one time because I was crying. He’s bending her thumbs
I’m sure, for starters. They used to just take
your hand like that, like bend your thumbs backwards,
so you wouldn’t have a choice but follow his arm. And that’s how they
treated me in my very first day. And I had just turned 13. But they cuffed me and they
took me down in the basement because I was crying. Whenever someone would go to
the hole, everyone’s screaming, it’s very traumatic, like
they’re trying to get everyone into their rooms and
people aren’t going. We would either
barricade ourselves in rooms or threaten staff. Chairs will go flying or
whatever’s going to go flying. Like, everything’s going flying. Like there’s, there’s
these big dudes coming at you. And they’re literally
dragging you to the hole. So I remember they took Rita,
and then she wanted her stuffy, she had a stuffy, and even
though it’s like three floors down, we could hear her, that’s
how much she was screaming. Collie was trying to stop
everything from happening, like trying to stop me
from going into the hole. I did, I just kept going. I just kept banging on
the door and screaming, “F– you,” and, “Give her
her freaking stuffy.” And the buzzer rang,
and they came and took me. And I remember talking to
her for so long and saying, “It’s going to be okay,”
you know? And she was just so terrified,
she was so afraid down there, you know, and so I went down
there and stayed with her in the next cell, and we made
it through the night. It was every day. It was us against them. It was always the same warning. “If you don’t stop
what you’re doing, you know what’s
going to happen.” And that’s the end of it, right? You’re in isolation
by the end of the day. You never win. What did I learn? Nothing. I’m getting angry, so angry
because I feel that I want– I want to– I want
fucking answers. I want answers to why
did they do that to me? Why did they do that to us? Why do they do that to children? Nobody stepped in,
nobody stopped it. They just took us, they threw us
away and they locked the doors and said, “You’re not
our problem anymore”, and they walked away. [♪♪] [♪♪] I don’t know if you’ve ever
heard the story of the guy that falls in a hole, and a
priest comes along and he says, “I’ll pray for you.” Another guy comes
along and says, “Oh, I’m so sorry
you fell in a hole.” Another guy
comes along and says, “I’ll go get help.” And then another guy comes
along and jumps in the hole. And he says,
“What are you doing?” Why did you jump in? He said, “I know the way out.” And that’s how I feel,
I feel like I know the way out. Overly jail-like. Well, it’s a bloody good
thing they closed this, that’s what I think. What pisses me off is, I mean,
if everybody in the outside knew they were supposed to be
changing the rules in there, they didn’t. We were still being
put in isolation, we’re still being
locked in our rooms, we’re still being drugged. Like nothing changed for us. You know, I’ve never stopped
talking about that building. I’ve never stopped
walking those halls. I thought I had been then spark
for meaningful change and if I wasn’t, then
what was it all done for? I have to ask, “Why?” It was one of the first
questions I asked, “Did it end?” And they said, well, we were cut
off from the world but it went on for years after that. And no child should– Do you think that
produces healthy adults? [Sighing] Definitely something
was wrong with me. When I first got out, they had
to put me in a halfway house because I couldn’t function. You’re locked up 24/7,
you’re in one building all the time. And…I had to learn to… to react the way
you’re supposed to react. And– and to laugh when
you’re supposed to laugh, and to cry when
you’re supposed to cry. And, it’s kind of weird. It’s– it’s just a whole bunch
of little things and when you put it in a
big pile, it’s a lot. It’s– it’s mountains, like… It’s warm in here and I
don’t have air conditioning, as you can see. And this is what I do
when I’m stressed out. I kind of stand in the
middle of my living room and look at pictures. I have post-traumatic
stress and anxiety problems, a touch of agoraphobia
where I have a hard time getting out of the house. So, a hermit, yeah. Oh, check my message. My short term
memory is pretty bad. I think it’s definitely drug
related and I want to go back to Marian Hall with that. So, they had me on like Valium,
they had me on sleeping pills. They were just
feeding us medications without any diagnosis. When you get up in the morning,
everybody would have to line up and they’d give you your little
cup and you have to stand right in front of staff and
take it so you don’t, you know, cheek it
and keep it for later. I lived on the street
for a couple of years, here in Hamilton
when I first moved out. I did every pill I
could get my hands on. I drank seven days a week. In the 90’s,
I got into crack. Ended up back on the street. I tried acid, mescaline. I mean, you name it, I did it. I just couldn’t let go
of it because I didn’t know how not to be numb. Let’s put our lumber jacket on. That’s our norm. Let’s be norm. Yeah, no direction at all. I had no idea that there
was this world where… where people created a home? I didn’t have any
sense of creating a home. It was a crazy time. Sometimes I’m
amazed that I’m alive, sometimes I’m amazed that worse
things didn’t happen, although some really bad things happened. I’m doing drugs,
I’m stealing, I got in big, big trouble. I got in with
some guys that– yeah, it’s bad. I did some robberies
that I’m not proud of, and um, and next
thing you know I’m like, wanted by the police
for stuff that is not juvenile stuff anymore. So I decided to get on a
train and I headed out to Prince George, went 5,000
miles at 19 years old. A year after I was in
Prince George, I was arrested for the crime in Montreal. You know, I could have done
between seven and 14 years, was the charges
that I was up against. And on the way back in
the plane, I just told this police officer who I was. I told him about my life,
where I’d come from, how I’d ended up
in Prince George, about the detention centres,
and I was handcuffed to him the whole time, so I might
as well talk to him. And it was really weird,
it was like this purging thing. So I went to jail, and then
I went to court, and this police officer basically
was an advocate for me. He told this judge that I had
done so well in Prince George, I hadn’t gotten
into any trouble, I was honest about
what I had done, he knew the people
I was involved with, he couldn’t believe I
was involved with them. And that it might be detrimental
to bother even putting me back into the system so that I
continued in the same lifestyle I had always been in
from the age of 11. So I ended up only having
to do six months in Tanguay, and it was very scary. I never looked back from there,
I never was locked up again, ever again,
since that day, ever again. Tanguay, that’s a
woman’s prison. What? Collie went to prison? If you sit in on the chat rooms
even as a little fly on the wall, it’s very powerful
what they’re going through. So I’m dragged into this story. It just keeps hurling me along. Ooh, lots of love there. She’s saying this chat is like,
it’s reliving the past we tried so hard to forget. There’s part of me
that’s detached, the journalist, and
there’s part of me that’s Gillian Cosgrove,
the human being. Rita says I’m crying now,
oh shame Rita, don’t cry. Oh, Collie is
crying too, oh my God. They’re thousands of miles
away from each other and they’re crying, and yet they’re
reaching out in this chat room. They have more of an effect on
me because they underwent things that I cannot even conceive of. That’s unbelievable,
so many lost children. Ellie, Ellie, Ellie. Yes. I don’t hear you. Yes. [Inaudible] -Hello.
-Hello. How are you? How’s your
counselling going, Morrie? Not bad. It’s going good, really. You thinking about going
for counselling, Carol? -Eh? Me?
-Yeah, you. Eh, yeah. When you’re talking about this–
like, just for example if we’re talking about going
upstairs to the rooms. I can hear those doors. I can actually almost
count the steps I’m going up. I mean, my flashbacks,
it’s always the same thing. It’s, like, some memory of that
place or something that happened in that place or happened
to somebody in that place. And I’ve had a lot of
counselling to deal with those thoughts and feelings. About the pictures
and that, you know…. Morag started counselling. She’s in counselling. Whereas Carol’s never had any. And so when you,
without counselling, when you start having
those feelings and thoughts, it’s almost like you just want
to jump off a balcony or jump out of your skin because you
don’t know what to do with it. We’re sisters. Always have been,
just from different mothers. I always knew
that I had to look. I had to. Those were the people,
they were my family. They were my family. [Sighing] Um… It’s important to find them,
more of them, partly to see if
they’re still there. ‘Cause a lot of them died. And, it’s going to sound kind
of weird but it’s almost like I didn’t feel complete. Like when you lose something. Holy Hannah, I can’t
even move my feet. My life just got difficult. I’ve been to therapy so many
times and they keep saying that whatever you used to
cope, they’re just, they just, your
coping skills just go. So you gotta learn
how to cope again. We renovated the whole house. The kitchen and the bathroom. I want to renovate all of it. I think that’s my way
of cleansing myself. Like, I mean, how do you heal
from something if you don’t express it or talk about it? For the first time
in my whole life, my voice, not
Gillian’s words, my words, are going to be told. I am going to tell my stories
and I hope I get my answers. I just need answers. [Producer] What if
there aren’t any? I’ll find my own. ♪ ♪ I can’t believe it’s not there. All my life,
I thought it was still there. I’m no longer
walking those halls. And I think, I truly think,
it’s ’cause I know the building is gone. I actually think it has
something to do with that. And, jokes aside, I really
did want a brick from it. I really did want to put one on
my balcony and just have a piece of that right there
that I know I could just, it’s nothing now. It’s nothing. It’s a brick. You know? So now, it’s nothing at all. Come this way, guys! Oh, she likes the running, eh? Good girl. You know, sometimes I am sad,
but I’m mostly sad for like the little girl that I was,
like for her, for having to scramble all
that time to try to get it, to try and be loved,
to race towards it, to fight for it and claw for it. What do you think of this, eh? I don’t know why
I got the gift now, but thank God I got it. You’re wet, wet, wet, wet girl. Nana has a blanket
in the truck though. Yeah, you’re just gonna
have to be wet for a bit now. Do you want to
snuggle in a blanket after? I would’ve been sad to
go all the way fighting, right, to the end, you know? Papi? [♪♪]


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