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Ontario Antes Up in Dionne Case

March 6, 1998

TORONTO (AP) _ Admitting its earlier offer was inadequate, the Ontario government said today it would pay $2.8 million to the three surviving Dionne quintuplets in compensation for the exploitation they underwent as children.

The sisters, now 63 and living in poverty in Montreal, accepted the offer.

The province’s previous proposal _ monthly pensions totaling $4,200 _ was rejected by the sisters as an insult. Public opinion was overwhelmingly in their favor, and Ontario Premier Mike Harris publicly acknowledged he had erred in saying the proposal was his final offer.

``This has not been our finest hour,″ said Attorney General Charles Harnick, who apologized for his role in insisting for months that the Dionnes had no legal claim to any payment.

Born during the Depression to a mother of six and her impoverished husband in a Northern Ontario farmhouse, the sisters were the first quintuplets on record to survive more than a few days. They became wards of the province, and contend they were bilked out of money earned while they were put on display as children at a theme-park-like site called Quintland.

Ontario displayed the girls three times a day to millions of gawking spectators. They earned millions of dollars in endorsements and public appearances, but the sisters say money was diverted from a trust fund controlled by the province.

One independent audit of the fund suggested the women _ now living together on a combined monthly income of $520 _ could be owed $15 million.

The three surviving sisters are Cecile, Annette and Yvonne.

One sister, Emilie, died in 1954; another, Marie, died in 1970.

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