Reader's corner: Baby ring uncovered during the Duplessis era

from: Barbara Wanless

to: Adoption in Quebec: The Right to Know

Since the copies I made at the library are truly poor quality and the films
have now gone back - I tried to re-run February 1954 again, but the
librarians were ranting about home, families and cooking dinner - here is as
much of the story as I can cram in an email:


Montreal Gazette February 13, 1954. An international ring dealing in black
market babies has been using Montreal as its base of operations for 10
years. Montreal lawyer Herman Buller was taken into custody at Dorval
airport yesterday as he prepared to board an overseas airliner with his wife
and parents for a visit to Israel.


Buller was arraigned before Judge Gerald Almond on two charges: "Having
falsified the entries into a birth certificate," and "giving counsel and
advicein connection with an indictable offence."


Bail was set - and paid - at $2,000 and preliminary hearing fixed for Feb. 19.
Buller, 33, a member of the Montreal bar, pleaded not guilty to the charges
through his lawyer, Myer Gross, Q.C., who told the judge he was shocked by
the publicity given to this case. "Mr. Buller was freed of a similar charge
two years ago. I am convinced that he will be acquitted on this charge."
Evidence so far uncovered reveals that more than 1,000 babies born in
Montreal have been sold illegally to families in the United States. Most of
the infants went to persons in New York, but others went to points as
distant as Cleveland, Chicago and Florida.


The price for the children ranged anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000. In some
instances it was slightly higher because of added risks taken by members of
the ring to deliver the infants. Most of the racket was based on the
falsification of birth certifiicates, but in some cases infants were merely
smuggled across the border without any documents.


Police said that most of the children involved were of French-Canadian
origin but were sold to Jewish families in the United States. This is in
complete contradiction to Quebec adoption laws which state specifically that
adoptions must be made by parents of the same religion as the child.
George W. Hill, Q.C., Crown Prosecutor in charge of the case for the Quebec
attorney general, said the disclosures would probably result in a complete
remodelling of the existing adoption laws.


Mr. Hill has been working on the case for several months now and recently
returned from New York after conferring with the district attorney's office.
Accompanying him were Det. Sgt. Edgar Belair, of the Montreal Police
Department and Dets. Jules Arsenault and Michel Deltorquio of the Provincial
Police. Ernest A. Mitler, of the N.Y. district attorney's office is in
Montreal to assist.


Mr. Miller said he has personally interviewed at least 70 persons in New
York who have admitted "buying" babies illegally in Montreal. Mr. Miller
said that most of the families were unaware that they were doing anything
illegal, but they "were pretty gullible."


The ring is believed to have worked as follows:
A family wishing to adopt a child in New York would contact a lawyer there
who would subsequently refer them to a Montreal source. The couple would
come to Montreal and the financial details of the transaction would be
agreed upon.


Then the ring would obtain a baby from an establishment for unwed mothers.
In some cases the real mothers were given small amounts of money but in
others the babies were merely taken without their consent. Once obtained,
the baby would be deliverd to its destination in the United States, usually
in one of two ways. One was for a girl courier to literally smuggle the
child across the border by "bluffing" her way past immigration authorities.
The second method was by providing the baby with a visa and passport that
had been obtained here by falsification of names.


Maurice Duplessis, Premier of Quebec, said that he had been aware of the
racket for some time and his department had lost no time in investigating.
He personally sent two Crown prosecutors to New York to conduct interviews.
The Montreal Council of Social Agencies said that they were not totally
surprised by the ring, but its size and scope were not suspected. The
council stated it knew  "frightful irregularities" in baby placement have
occurred and it has frequently spoken out against such abuse. "No human baby
at any age should be considered a commodity" a spokesman for the council said.
More arrests are expected in what official sources describe as a $3,000,000
ring of doctors, lawyers, nurses, social workers and others.


The work of the black market operators was so well worked out, that some
doctors and lawyers became innocent dupes in the transactions.
Feb. 15: Unnamed woman arrested and files seized from her Laval street home
in connection with baby ring. The files and other documentation contain
information about some of the ring's "customers". The woman is expected to
be released, but police plan to pick up about a dozen more women this week.
Only two men have bee formally charged. The are lawyers Herman Buller and
Louis Glazer. Glazer pled not guilty to five charges: 2 counts of conspiracy
in connection with birth registrations, 2 charges of falsification and
forgery and one of uttering. He was released on $850 bail.


Two women and a baby were picked up Friday night after a policewoman
"bought" the baby for $3,500 in an east-end home. Police said Glazer was
present when the negotiations took place, he was arrested the next day.
The women, a mother and daughter who ran a nursing home, were released after
questioning - police have not decided whether to lay charges. Police are
still trying to find the mother of the baby.


Additional article Feb 15: Unfamiliarity with Canadian adoption laws on the
part of prospective "buyers" in the United States has been advanced as one
of the chief reasons the racket was able to flourish. Investigation has
revealed that most of the families who "adopted" babies in Montreal did so
believing the procedure was legal.


Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the case was the manner in which the
ring prayed on the mothers of illegitimate babies. Hundreds of these
unfortunate women became pawns of the organization simply because they did
not know of anywhere else to turn. Montreal has long been the centre to
which most unmarried mothers in the province come.


Members of the black market ring also took advantage of the laxness of
border restrictions and used the sympathies of immigration authorities to
deliver the children to the U.S.


Another ploy used by the ring was to illegally obtain birth certificates. A
woman would swear she was the mother of another woman's illegitimate child
and obtain a birth certificate for it.


Once it was obtained, the birth certificate and the child were turned over
to the ring and the baby was adopted by U.S. families through regular court
procedures.


Most of the babies went to Jewish families although they were of
French-Canadian origin. The ring often used Jewish girls in the city to pose
as mothers of the children to get birth certificates.