Dene Moore, Canadian Press
January 8, 2007
Woman seeks to launch class-action case against Ottawa for Cold War-era tests
Montreal — Janine Huard was a young mother of four with mild postpartum depression when she checked herself in for psychiatric treatment at a Montreal hospital more than five decades ago.
What happened after that still haunts her today, Ms. Huard says, and she will be in a federal courtroom this week seeking to launch a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian government for brainwashing experiments carried out in the Cold War era on her and hundreds of other patients.
“I was a guinea pig,” Ms. Huard said.
On and off for more than a decade at McGill University’s renowned Allan Memorial Institute, Ms. Huard said, she received massive electroshocks and was fed more than 40 experimental pills a day.
The former patient, who will be 79 at the end of the month, said she was drugged and subjected to so-called “depatterning,” during which repetitive recordings were played in her ear for weeks on end, one of them telling her she was of no use to her family.
“I came out of there so sick that my mother had to live with me for 10 years,” Ms. Huard said. “I couldn’t take care of my children any more.” She said she lost memories and suffered from migraines as a result.
The ordeal came at the hands of Ewan Cameron. The Edinburgh-educated physician based in New York pioneered “psychic driving,” by which he believed he could erase the memories of patients and rebuild their psyches without psychiatric defect.
The idea intrigued the Central Intelligence Agency, which recruited Dr. Cameron to experiment with mind-control techniques beginning in 1950. The McGill experiments were jointly funded by the CIA and Ottawa.
As director of the institute until 1964, Dr. Cameron conducted a range of experiments, often without the knowledge or permission of patients.
He 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 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 brothel patrons 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 Ms. Huard, and the Canadian government ordered a judicial report into Dr. Cameron’s experiments. The allegations have not been proved in court.
A Federal Court hearing is scheduled to begin Wednesday to decide whether to approve the class-action lawsuit against Ottawa.
In 1994, 77 of the mostly unwitting Canadian patients were awarded $100,000 each from the federal government but only those who suffered “total depatterning” — were rendered to a childlike state.
More than 250 others were denied compensation because their treatment was less intense and had fewer long-term effects. In 2004, a federal appeal court overruled that decision and awarded a former patient the $100,000.
“There are many, many former patients of Dr. Cameron who applied for the $100,000 whose applications were denied on the same basis . . . because they misapplied the decree,” Alan Stein, Ms. Huard’s lawyer, said.
The federal appeal court’s decision means hundreds of other former patients should also have received compensation, he said.
“Even though [Ms. Huard] might not have had the number of electroshock treatments as other applicants, she was subject to psychic driving, she was given experimental drugs and she had electroshock treatments,” Mr. Stein said.
Government lawyers have argued that too much time has passed for patients to appeal a federal panel decision.
But Ms. Huard said the treatments affected her four children and her marriage.
“Justice has to be done,” the grandmother of four and great-grandmother of four said. “It’s impossible that they ruined our lives like that. They shouldn’t sweep it under the carpet.”