TORONTO — Two Toronto women, taken from their mother as children and institutionalized, have found each other decades later.
“The minute I saw her I fell in love with her, I was so happy to meet my sister,” said Marie Charlebois, adding that it was a moment she had waited her whole life for.
“I was taken away from my mother when I was very young, I don’t even know what age I was.”
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After foster care, she said she was institutionalized in appalling conditions at the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia, Ont.
Unbeknownst to Charlebois, a sister she did not know, later suffered the same fate.
“It was horrible, the abuse there, the neglect,” said Marie Slark.
Slark said it was so terrible that in 2013, she became the face of a class action lawsuit against the government-run centre.
It was her face that held the key to the sisters’ reunion.
Charlebois saw Slark in a media report about the lawsuit. She saw how much they looked alike and instantly knew Slark was her sister.
Charlebois wasn’t sure how to confirm it, and enlisted the help of a social worker at Baycrest Health Services.
“It was a lot of digging,” said social worker Cindy Brcko, who admitted at first she wasn’t even sure they could pull it off.
After numerous calls and a lot of research, they found the names in old records that confirmed it, Slark and Charlebois had the same mother.
Their first meeting was everything Charlebois had dreamed. “I started, tears coming in my eyes, because I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Since then, not a day goes by that they don’t talk — they spend every weekend at each other’s homes.
“I’m not as lonely, you know, we do everything together,” said Slark.
Brcko said that it was amazing to know they had found each other.
“I’m so happy for the both of them, they are remarkable individuals,” she said. “Their resiliency really sticks out to me because of everything they went through and they were able to bounce back, and not just one time, but many times.”
The sisters both said they are overjoyed they have each other and don’t have to grow old alone.
“She is a really great sister, she’ll do anything she can for me, which is wonderful,” said Slark.
Charlebois said there is no doubt about it.
“I do more for her than what I would do for myself, that’s how much I love her.”