Survivors and families of those who allegedly underwent brainwashing experiments at McGill University in Montreal are planning a class-action lawsuit against the Quebec and federal governments because of what they claim had been done to them decades ago.
Dr. Ewan Cameron, a former psychiatrist at McGill University’s Alan Memorial Institute, conducted CIA-funded experiments in the 1950s and 1960s involving sleeping drugs, electroshock therapy and the powerful hallucinogenic LSD to see if the brain could be reprogrammed.
Typically, patients entered the program — known as Project MKUltra — with relatively minor mental health issues, such as anxiety. In many cases, patients claim to not have consented to being treated with psychedelic drugs or electricity.
Some patients also claim to have been put into medically-induced comas for weeks while being played loops of noise or repeated statements.
“These were innocent people that went in for mild depression… They came out completely ravaged and their life was ruined,” Marlene Levenson, whose aunt was admitted to the facility, told CTV Montreal.
Cameron had reportedly hoped his experiments would cure his patients’ illnesses by erasing certain memories and reprogramming their brains. Instead, several patients reported the experiments had an adverse effect on their lives.
After the treatments, Levenson said her aunt could no longer care for herself and hated being touched.
Many victims of these experiments have since passed away, but some family members have documents that share first-hand accounts of what allegedly transpired at the facility.
Angela Bardosh’s mother Nancy Layton showed CTV Montreal a letter from her mother that read in part: “They destroyed many parts of me. I’m lucky to be alive.”
Bardosh said Layton was admitted to the facility at age 18 due to depression. Bardosh claims her mother’s time as a patient of Project MKUltra ruined her life. According to Bardosh, within six months of Cameron’s treatment, her mother developed acute schizophrenia.
“It’s horrific to go back, it’s very emotional,” said Bardosh. “For me, personally, it took me years to even read my mom’s medical records.”
The victims and their families have now banded together in the hopes of filing a class-action lawsuit against the Quebec and federal governments, and maybe even McGill too, seeking damages and an apology for what they had to endure.
“I believe we can claim moral damages as a result of the experiments when Dr. Cameron used these people as guinea pigs,” said Alan Stein, the lawyer representing the victims.
In 1992, then Justice Minister Kim Campbell compensated 77 former patients of the program, but denied others a payout because they were deemed not damaged enough.
There have been several lawsuits and out of court settlements since.
More than the money, public acknowledgement of wrongdoing is something the alleged victims’ families are really looking for.
“It would mean the world for (my mother) to have a public apology,” said Bardosh.
The Quebec and federal governments did not immediately respond to a request for comment.