Victims of torture during sadistic testing of a secret CIA program that began in Montreal and their families still demand apologies from the Canadian and US governments for the harm they caused more than 70 years ago.
“I was emotionally crucified and have been on medication since I came out. I have my file which tells my story and what I experienced in this institute. The Canadian government can no longer deny what happened at the Allan Memorial Institute, it can no longer deny that there is a need for justice, ”said with emotion one of the victims, Lara Ponting, who is now 79 years old and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In 1958, when she was only 16 years old, Lana Ponting was brought to the institute which housed the psychiatric departments of the Royal Victoria Hospital and the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, by decision of a judge. At that time, the young woman, who lived in the metropolis, ran away a lot, and her father, exhausted, took her to the juvenile court, tells her nephew, Kristian.
For nearly a month, Dr Donald Ewen Cameron, a world-renowned psychiatrist, administered brainwashing treatment, including LSD, electroshock, and sleep deprivation.
Better known as the Montreal Experiments , these experiments were part of a program of the very powerful American CIA, linked to the MK-Ultra project, the aim of which was to develop a means of controlling the brain of an individual ( see text opposite ).
“They have caused so much damage to me and everyone else, they have to be held to account, apologize and acknowledge everything they have done to us. If I want them to apologize, it is so that I and all the other victims can find some peace of mind, ”adds Ms. Ponting.
Like her, Ivor Mills underwent the same treatments for several months after being admitted for asthma treatment.
The man, who died today, will never have been able to get up after the abuse inflicted by Dr Ewen Cameron, say his two daughters, Lana Mills-Sowchuk and Linda Mills-Boismenu, aged 64 and 68.
“He couldn't work anymore and when he was at home he wasn't stable. He didn't have much judgment anymore, he did dangerous and really weird things, like making my son drink when he was only 7 years old because he wanted to drink with someone, ”recalls Lana Mills-Sowchuk.
Finding the truth
Ellen Atkin and Lana Mills-Sowchuk are two daughters of victims who fight for an apology and restitution.
The parents of Ellen Atkin, 58, were interned in the 1950s. For more than 13 years, she has tried to gather as much information as possible to uncover the story of their arrival at the university institute. McGill.
For the woman, who lives in British Columbia, it was unthinkable not to travel to Montreal yesterday to seek justice in the company of other relatives of the victims of this inhuman treatment.
“I will never stop demanding that the governments of Canada and the United States, the CIA and McGill University tell us the truth and recognize the atrocities they have inflicted on hundreds of people and their loved ones,” said she does.
Sadistic CIA Experiments in Montreal
- Clara Loiseau and MIchaël Nguyen , Le Journal de Montréal
Treatment with hallucinogenic drugs, electroshock, sleep deprivation: For almost 16 years, the US and Canadian governments funded CIA experiments to find a way to control the human brain.
These tests, better known under the name of Montreal Experiments linked to the MK-Ultra project of the American intelligence agency CIA, were carried out in Montreal, at the Royal Victoria Hospital and at the Allan Memorial Institute of the University. McGill, between 1948 and 1964, on several hundred people.
They were headed by Dr Donald Ewen Cameron, a Scottish psychiatrist. The latter was notably president of the Association of American Psychiatrists, its Canadian counterpart and of the World Association of Psychiatrists.
The purpose of these experiments was actually to destroy the patient's personality, to create a new one for him.
According to court documents filed in January 2019 as part of a class action lawsuit, we learn that “these experiences were a form of psychological torture inflicted on hundreds of unsuspecting patients, and which led to damage that have lasted their entire lives ”.
We can read that many lost their memory, others had to “relearn the most basic human functions, like using a toilet”.
And the American and Canadian governments were well aware of these experiences, since they participated financially. According to documents filed in court, they injected $ 221,673 between 1950 and 1964. In today's dollars, that equates to $ 2.3 million.
Jeff Orenstein, lawyer representing the class action.
For Jeff Orenstein, lawyer and founder of the firm Group of Consumer Rights, which represents the class action, it is important that the Canadian and American governments, the Royal Victoria and the McGill University Health Center recognize the damage they have caused. to several hundred people, but also to their relatives.
“These four institutions have never recognized their responsibility in the case and for us and for history, it is important that they recognize what they have done and that they carry out reparations for those who have suffered. damage, ”adds Me Orenstein.
Although the experiments were carried out at the McGill University Health Center during the 1950s and 60s, the Center rejected any legal responsibility in this case.