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Dionne sisters send a letter to City Council: You have a 'moral obligation'

'Although we no longer live in your community, we have kept abreast of what has been written in this debate over the fate of the Dionne Museum, it has placed us in a difficult situation once again.'
Lawrence, Louise de Kiriline, Dionne Quints 2016
Photo courtesy the Mattawa Museum

Good evening!

We would like to apologize for being unable to attend this council meeting to deliver this message personally.  Unfortunately at age 82, health issues have compromised our ability to travel back home to speak out and to make our voices heard at this important Council Meeting.  We are thankful to Mr. Carlo Tarini a close family friend and our spokesman over the years for his assistance in helping us to prepare this message and to Miles Peters of North Bay for conveying it on our behalf.

Although we no longer live in your community, we have kept abreast of what has been written in this debate over the fate of the Dionne Museum, it has placed us in a difficult situation once again.

It appears, that the Dionne Museum comprised of our birth home and many artifacts surrounding our birth and history are being readied to be dismantled and dispersed while the house in which we were born could be gifted into the hands of a smaller community’s Agricultural Society Group. A community with little actual connection to the Museum or its place in history.

Lest we all forget, the role of a museum is to collect objects and materials of cultural and historical importance, preserve and make them available to the public for the purpose of education and enjoyment.

The Dionne Museum is our museum, but foremost it is your museum, it is the museum of your parents and grandparents and the museum of your children and grandchildren. It first serves as a reminder of how fascinating, complex, and fragile childhood is. Secondly it speaks about the concept of multiple births, once thought of as miraculous.  It is also about how society and politicians sometimes bend the rules, still a very actual topic when we read the daily news. 

As newborns we were removed from our parents for nine years, made wards of the Ontario Government and imposed a guardianship, which we now know destroyed any chance of a normal childhood and upbringing. 

This is a true story, a Canadian story worth remembering. Our birth and survival in this small house, without heat and electricity was a huge story during the great depression. The story of the first documented case of survival of five identical babies in a small log cabin, now a museum, it served to inspire and bring hope to millions worldwide also living in difficult times.

If the mayor and councilors of the city of North Bay now feel the land onto which the museum stands better lends itself to urban development; and perhaps, North Bay really needs a new big box store or high-rise?  If it is indeed a fact that the Museum cannot be maintained in North Bay without being a burden to its citizens, then we simply wish and request that the Museum be kept whole and transferred to the Canadian Museum of History. A place where it could still be visited as it stands now, that is our preference.  Let us be clear; if our wishes are to be considered and if we have anything to say and of course city council has no legal obligation to us.  But perhaps there remains a small moral obligation which we can leverage to do our part to salvage a page of Canadian history. So that we may leave a trace behind, a trace which may serve today's youngsters. 

Today's youngsters are the future leaders of your community and our country. On the eve of Canada's 150 th anniversary perhaps the full story needs to be told and taught to young Canadians who have never heard it, who have never visited the museum nor ever will… if it is to be transferred to an obscure rural community disconnected from its roots.

Yes, factually according to historians our so-called miracle birth propelled a sleepy hunting and fishing area into a grand and beautiful city and region. It may be one day forgotten that the Dionne Quintuplets lived the first nine years of their lives separated from their parents and exhibited twice daily, weather permitting. That millions of tourists travelled great distances to what was then the backwoods of Northern Ontario to witness this firsthand. This museum traces the story never to be forgotten of how human beings were treated because they were different. Thank you so much for hearing us out.


Annette Dionne and Cécile Dionne,  February 7, 2017