Sur­viv­ing Dionne quin­tu­plets share birth­day wish

As they turn 83, sur­viv­ing sis­ters seek se­cure fund­ing for birth­place

Cape Breton Post - - Canada -

Ce­cile and An­nette Dionne have just two items on their wish list as they get set to cel­e­brate their 83rd birth­day Sun­day.

The sur­viv­ing Dionne quin­tu­plets would like var­i­ous lev­els of gov­ern­ment to en­sure their soon-to-be-re­lo­cated birth­place in North Bay, Ont., has a con­sis­tent source of fund­ing once it is moved.

And in a rare in­ter­view, the sis­ters said they’d also like to see Canada do more to pre­vent child abuse.

The iden­ti­cal sis­ters were born on May 28, 1934, near the vil­lage of Cor­beil, Ont., and were the first quin­tu­plets to sur­vive more than a few days.

The On­tario gov­ern­ment took them from their par­ents and placed them in a spe­cial hospi­tal where they spent the first nine years of their lives and served as a tourist at­trac­tion that poured roughly $500 mil­lion into pro­vin­cial cof­fers.

Be­cause of their own ex­pe­ri­ence with ex­ploita­tion, they’re ask­ing the gov­ern­ment to do more for kids across Canada.

“In our case, there were huge gaps ... there was abuse,” An­nette told The Cana­dian Press in the in­ter­view at her home south of Mon­treal. “So for our birth­day, we wish that Canada would take bet­ter care of their chil­dren.”

“That they take the time,” Ce­cile chimed in. “That we can help them with their prob­lems, that we lis­ten to them.

“That’s what was lack­ing in our case.”

The sur­viv­ing quints still cap­ture the pub­lic’s in­ter­est.

Carlo Tarini, an ad­vo­cate and com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist who

works with the sis­ters, said they still re­ceive let­ters to this day.

When news sto­ries emerged last year that Ce­cile was left pen­ni­less af­ter be­ing bilked by a son out of what re­mained of her share of a set­tle­ment with the On­tario gov­ern­ment, peo­ple sent cheques to help her, Tarini said.

The sis­ters are still close, of­ten de­fer­ring to one an­other dur­ing con­ver­sa­tion with a “what do you think, sis?”

While they don’t see each other in per­son of­ten, they talk on the phone sev­eral times a day.

“When I re­al­ize that I start to miss her, I pick up the phone,” An­nette says.

“As for our life — we live day to day — we try to take good care of our­selves and do what’s nec­es­sary to ac­com­plish all that we want.”

The me­dia-shy sis­ters, who live sep­a­rately in the Mon­treal area, were thrust back into the spot­light this year as the fate of their home-turned-mu­seum played out.

In April, the North Bay coun­cil voted to re­lo­cate the his­toric log cabin, where the quin­tu­plets were born, to a water­front area a few kilo­me­tres away.

Both sis­ters are urg­ing gov­ern­ments to en­sure a con­sis­tent source of fund­ing for the build­ing once it is moved.

“We need Madame (Her­itage Min­is­ter Me­lanie) Joly to help us make sure this mu­seum stays open and we’ll be happy,” Ce­cile said.

The ques­tion of fund­ing weighs on them as the mu­seum was shut­tered in 2015 due to dwin­dling mu­nic­i­pal funds and lim­ited pub­lic in­ter­est.

They ar­gue the home is part of Cana­dian his­tory and de­serves to be rec­og­nized as such — call­ing it a “moral obli­ga­tion” in a let­ter they sent to lo­cal law­mak­ers.

“From a his­toric point of view, it would be good that it be pre­served go­ing for­ward,” Ce­cile said in the in­ter­view.

Both the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and On­tario said no for­mal ap­pli­ca­tion has been re­ceived with re­gard to fund­ing.

“We are in dis­cus­sions with the city of North Bay,” said Joly spokesman Pierre-Olivier Her­bert.

Jeff Fournier, chair of the Friends of the Dionne Quin­tu­plets Home Mu­seum, said the is­sue of long-term fund­ing is next on a lengthy to-do list once the re­lo­ca­tion is com­pleted some­time in June.

CP PHOTO

The sur­viv­ing Dionne quin­tu­plets Ce­cile (left) and her sis­ter Anette cel­e­brate their 83rd birth­day Sun­day.

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