Montreal woman seeks compensation in '50s brainwashing case
A Montreal woman is seeking to launch a class-action lawsuit more than 50 years after she says she was subjected to controversial psychiatric treatments funded by the Canadian government and the CIA.
Janine Huard, 78, was a patient at McGill University's Allan Memorial Institute when a doctor there was conducting brainwashing experiments.
Some former patients have been paid compensation by the federal government, and Huard says she should also be paid.
When Huard was in her early thirties, she had her fourth baby, and subsequently suffered from post-partum depression.
She was treated at the Allan Memorial Institute. But, she claims, the treatment made her depression worse than anything she could imagine.
"I had massive convulsive electroshocks, and they used to give me pills, 40 pills a day," she told CBC News on Monday.
Huard doesn't know if some of those were LSD pills, one of the experimental drugs being usedin the hospital at the time.
But, she said, she does know she was sleep deprived for days, and forced to listen to recorded messages played over and over again.
"When it was over, I was absolutely useless. I could not concentrate anymore. I had migraine headaches and paralysis of the face."
But her symptoms were not severe enough to earn Huard the $100,000 compensation package paid by the federal government to 77 other former patients.
Hundreds could benefit: lawyer
Huard's lawyer, Alain Stein, says— if the civil suit is successful —hundreds of other former patients could also benefit from it.
A federal court hearing is scheduled to begin Wednesday to decide whether to approve a class-action lawsuit. The federal government is contesting the application.
Dr. Ewen Cameron, an American doctor who believed he could erase the memories of patients and rebuild their psyches, was recruited bythe CIA to experiment with mind-control techniques beginning in 1950.
Cameron gave patients LSD and subjected them to massive and multiple electroshock treatments. Some underwent sleep deprivation or total sensory deprivation. Others were kept in drug-induced comas for months on end while speakers under their pillows broadcast messages for up to 16 hours a day.
The experiments were part of a larger CIA program called MK-ULTRA, which also saw LSD administered to U.S. prison inmates and patrons of brothels without their knowledge, according to testimony before a 1977 U.S. Senate committee.
The CIA eventually settled a class-action lawsuit by test subjects, including Huard, and the Canadian government ordered a judicial report into Cameron's experiments.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
The McGill experiments were jointly funded by the U.S. spy agency and the Canadian government.
With files from the Canadian Press