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Three of the Dionne sisters, the world's first surviving quintuplets, are seeking $7 million compensation from the Ontario government for exploiting them as children.

The sisters may pursue a legal settlement if the government does not comply by the end of May, said Bertrand Dionne, son of Cecile Dionne and an agent for her and sisters Annette and Yvonne. Two other sisters, Emilie and Marie, died as adults.Their birth to Oliva and Elzire Dionne on May 28, 1934, in the northern Ontario hamlet of Corbeil created a sensation that ended up tearing the family apart.

Not only were they the first quintuplets on record to survive more than a few days, they were also identical, still a rarity even in the days of fertility drugs and sextuplets.

Their father signed a contract 48 hours after their birth to display them at the Chicago World's Fair. Ontario Province intervened and set up a board of guardians and trust fund worth 1 million Canadian dollars, or about $700,000 at current exchange rates.

The government gave the doctor who delivered the girls control over their welfare and, as their health was initially precarious, built a hospital nursery across from the farmhouse called Quintland.

They weren't allowed to play with their other sisters and brothers. The Dionnes had 13 children.

The parents were almost completely excluded from decisions about how to raise the sisters, who became Canada's biggest tourist attraction, drawing as many as 6,000 people daily.

Their mother won a nine-year legal battle to regain custody but too late to restore family harmony. Their father died in 1979 and their mother in 1986.

The sisters, who now live in Montreal, made their formal request for compensation in November to Ontario Premier Bob Rae. The request was forwarded to the attorney general. The attorney general's office on Wednesday said it was under review.

The Dionne sisters were identical because they were conceived from a single egg that later divided into five parts. Multiple births that are conceived from separate eggs are more common.