Court allows lawsuit to proceed for families of Montreal brainwashing experiments victims


When Jean Steel’s family sent her to the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal in the 1960s, they thought she would be treated for her postpartum depression.

What her doctor did, however, went far beyond this.

“She was given massive doses of LSD, among many other kinds of drugs,” said her daughter, Alison Steel, in an interview with CTV News.

It was not psychiatry. Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron was testing something called Project MK-Ultra, a covered CIA-funded plan meant to experiment brainwashing and psychological torture. The subjects were unwitting and dozens suffered irreversible damage from treatments including electroshock therapy and drug therapy.

“She wasn’t emotional, I wasn’t able to just sit and talk to her about daily things, she was always somewhere else,” Steel recalled about her mother.

For more than four decades, families have sought compensation — from the CIA, the Canadian government, the Royal Victoria Hospital, and the McGill University Health Center.

Last week, the Quebec Superior Court cleared a major hurdle for the families by rejecting motions from the hospitals and the government attempting to dismiss the legal challenge, paving the way forward for the lawsuit launched by the survivors’ families. Steel launched the lawsuit alongside Marilyn Rappaport on behalf of themselves and other families who were part of the experiments.

“This period where Canadians citizens both in Quebec and elsewhere were subject to experimental treatments without their consent, it’s a very sad period for Canada,” said Alan Stein, a lawyer for the victims.

Some were compensated in the 1990s, including Jean Watts Steel. But it was only until after her mom passed away in 2002 that Alison Steel discovered the extent of the damage she suffered because of what was done to her mother.

Between 2015 and 2017, she obtained 300 pages of government files that she said revealed her mom was in an induced coma for eight weeks at a time, in addition to being given massive amounts of drugs, as well as undergoing sleep treatment and being subjected to repetitive taped messages.

“I’m just so thankful that I got those files because that’s the way I got to know my mother,” she said, with her voice breaking.

“My God, you know, that’s the way I discovered what happened to her, even though my father knew it, but he didn’t know the extent of what they did to her… nobody knew.”

She said what happened to her mom affected their relationship. “There’s, like, a hole in my heart,” she said of the void that was left behind in their mother-daughter bond.

“I was always angry at her because she didn’t understand when I was telling her something,” she said.

For this suffering, the lawsuit seeks $1 million per survivor. There’s also a separate class-action suit launched by a different law firm, but that one could be years away from a court date.

The victims and their survivors say they’ll never give up until they get justice.


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