BARBARA WICKENS October 9 1995


BARBARA WICKENS October 9 1995


A continuing tale of tragedy

They were supposed to live happily in the mansion on a hill. When Elzire and Oliva Dionne were finally able to reunite their famous daughters, the Dionne quintuplets, at the age of 9, with their five older children, the family was living in a wonderful new house built with income that the quints’ publicity had generated. The girls had been born in 1934 on the nearby Dionne farm, not far from North Bay, Ont., 300 km north of Toronto. The Ontario government, stepping in to assist the overwhelmed family, moved the quints into a specially built nursery near the farm. It soon turned into a major tourist attraction, and the Dionne parents had only limited access to their five famous daughters. Their reunion in 1943, however, did not bring happiness to the family. Last week, during a rare interview to promote a new book about their lives, the surviving quints, Yvonne, Annette and Cécile, said life in the big house was

brutal. In Dionne Quintuplets: Family Secrets by Montreal author Jean-Yves Soucy, the sisters, who are now 61, accuse their father of sexually assaulting them. They say that Oliva Dionne, who died in 1979, rubbed liniment on their naked chests when they were ill as young teenagers, and fondled them during car rides. When they complained to a local priest, he simply told them to “wear heavier coats in the car,” they say. Explaining why their allegations are surfacing now, Annette Dionne said: “We had to liberate ourselves from the past and turn the page.” But one of their older sisters, Thérèse (Dionne) Callahan of North Bay, who was 5 when the quints were born, will have no part of their story. Saying that their father was incapable of such acts, she told Maclean’s that the book will only further divide her already troubled family. “We are in pain and hurting,” says Callahan. ‘We are very depressed by this.”

A novel’s second life

Fred Bodsworth’s love affair with birds began as a child and stayed with him. As a young writer in Toronto after the Second World War, Bodsworth often wrote fic-

tion that took its themes from nature.

One of his stories, Last of the Curlews, told the tale of a solitary Eskimo curlew, the last of the species, on its perilous 9,000-mile migration from the Arctic to the tip of South America. It appeared first in Maclean’s, in 1954, then as a book a year later. Now, thanks to Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet W. S. Merwin, it is suddenly back in vogue. Merwin came across Bodsworth’s story last year while searching through a pile of old books at a friend’s home on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and was moved to tears when he read it. He promptly contacted a Washington-based publisher, Counterpoint, which has now reissued the novel in the hope that the story of one shorebird’s flight into oblivion will draw attention to other animals that face extinction. Bodsworth, now 76, says it is a fitting outcome for his book, which he calls a “short story that got out of control.” Added the author, as he left his Toronto home for a weekend of bird-watching in southern Ontario: “I hope a new generation of readers will discover it.”

The return of a disgraced MP

Toronto-area MP Jag Bhaduria has been lying low since January, 1994, when he was forced out of the liberal caucus because of discrepancies in his résumé and an uproar over four vaguely threatening letters he wrote to a past employer. Bhaduria has now re-emerged publicly to embrace the idea of holding a conference of East Indian parliamentarians from around the world. With

Indian emigrants and their descendants thriving on five continents, British Labour Party MP Keith Yaz approached Bhaduria in September about helping to organize such a conference for next year or 1997. The two, however, have differing recollections of what they decided. Bhaduria, who did not return calls from Maclean’s, told the New York City-based newspaper India Abroad

that he and Vaz agreed to hold the conference in Ottawa. “Actually,” Vaz told Maclean’s, “I’m quite keen on having it in London.” But the British parliamentarian did not want to discuss their disagreement Saying that he was aware of Bhaduria’s earlier troubles, Vaz added with a hearty laugh: “And I don’t want to add to them.”

Unflappable Canadians

The Australians are doing it, the Germans are doing it and even the ultra-diplomatic Japanese are doing it: citizens from some of the world’s most powerful trading nations have mounted vigorous campaigns protesting the nuclear tests now being carried out by France in the South Pacific. Sales of French wines have plunged by 30 to 50 per cent in Australia, and by 50 per cent in Sweden. One of Japan’s largest daily newspapers called on Japanese tourists to boycott French products, a market worth $2.75 billion annually. But what is the response from the country that gave birth to one of the world’s largest environmental organizations, Greenpeace? Almost complete silence. Despite ardent calls from antinuclear testing groups for a boycott of French products, Canadians have mounted only isolated protests. The odd restaurant has deleted French vintages from its wine list, and some communities have decided to boycott French products.

But two large provincial liquor boards, in Ontario and British Columbia, report that the call for a boycott has had no discernable effect on sales of French wines. A mere 50 or so demonstrators gathered outside the French embassy in Ottawa a day after the first tests on Sept. 5, and fewer than 100 took similar action outside the French consulate in Vancouver. “We were quite surprised,” said consulate spokesman Carine van Zuylen. Reserve, it seems, remains a powerful Canadian trait.

A hockey legend says No to separatism

A cynic might suspect that House of Commons Speaker Gilbert Parent had the coming Quebec referendum in mind when he invited 10 former NHL greats to visit the House this week. But his office insists that the timing of the appearance by fondly remembered stars from Frenchand Englishspeaking Canada is purely coincidental. In any case, there will be some irony in seeing Bloc Québécois MPs on their feet honoring one former Montreal Canadiens star, Jean Béliveau,

who happens to be a committed federalist. Béliveau, who is dropping by the Hill with former NHLers Red Kelly, Howie Meeker, Gordie Howe, Paul Henderson and Henri Richard, among others, says he is not impressed by Lucien Bouchard’s efforts to take Quebec out of Canada. “I think we’re all tired of the situation,” he told Maclean’s. Béliveau said he does not plan to take part in the referendum campaign, but “I hope that this settles it once and for all. We are living in a great country.”




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8. “L” Is for Lawless, Sue Grafton (3)

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3. Excelerate, Nuala Beck (V

4. My Times, Pierre Berton (2)

5. When Elephants Weep, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy (9)

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Compiled by Brian Bethune