Decades after Montreal brainwashing experiments, victims' families protest for right to sue
MONTREAL -- CIA-funded brainwashing experiments carried out at a Montreal hospital in the 1940s, 50s and 60s ruined the lives of many of the patients.
“It destroyed his life,” said Lana Mills Sowchuk of her father.
He was admitted to the Allan Memorial Institute in 1953, told that a doctor there could cure his asthma.
Instead, he was treated with “54 high voltage treatments” which, every single time, gave him a grand mal seizure, Mills Sowchuks said.
“He was put into an insulin coma for 36 days with a recording beside him saying ‘Your mother hates you, your mother hates you’ over and over again,” she said.
The rest of his life was filled with depression and anxiety.
Many patients admitted to the Allan during those years became subjects in the secret MKUltra experiments, as they were called. They were given electroshock therapy, high doses of experimental drugs and other treatments meant to break them down into a childlike state.
The institutions involved have often laid the blame at the feet of the doctor who carried them out, Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron.
“The courts have already established that the Royal Victoria Hospital was not considered, by law, the employer of Dr. Cameron; at the time, he exercised his profession in an autonomous and independent manner,” said the McGill University Health Centre in a statement to CTV.
In the statement, it also acknowledged that Dr. Cameron carried out experiments at the Allan and said the consequences were unfortunate.
Several victims’ families are now seeking court permission to launch a class action lawsuit against the Allan Memorial Institute, McGill University and the Canadian government. They held a protest on Saturday to draw attention to their campaign.
“When you look at this it sounds like a rogue doctor, Cameron, who committed all these atrocities, but that's just not possible,” said Jeff Orenstein, the lawyer for the group.
“It wasn't possible without the funding, without the help of all these institutions, of the universities, of the governments.”
In 1992, the federal government compensated 77 former patients of the program, but denied others a payout because they were deemed not damaged enough.
That’s not enough, the other families say, to close this ugly chapter in Canadian and Montreal history.