Victims of CIA-funded LSD 'brainwashing' experiments in Canada plan to sue the federal government
MK Ultra was a Cold War-era program that sought to develop drugs and techniques to induce a state of mind control that would make individuals more susceptible to interrogation
On Sunday, May 20, a group of Canadians allegedly affected by CIA-funded experiments conducted at McGill University's Allan Memorial Institute met for the first time to start organizing for a possible class-action lawsuit demanding a public apology and compensation from the Canadian federal government.
Typically, patients entered the CIA 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.
MK Ultra was a Cold War-era program that sought to develop drugs and other psychiatric techniques to induce a state of mind control that would make suspected individuals more susceptible to interrogation. Patients were subjected to electroshock therapy, forced into drug-induced sleeps and injected with megadoses of LSD.
"The government should offer an apology and there should be recognition of the injustice that was done," Gina Blasbalg, who became a patient at the Allan Institue as a teenager in 1960, told CTV. She drove to Montreal with her husband from Richmond, British Columbia, to attend the weekend meeting with nearly 40 other victims and their relatives.
Survivors Allied Against Government Abuse (SAAGA) includes both victims and their family members, according to a report by CBC. The victims were allegedly unwitting participants in brainwashing experiments conducted under the supervision of Dr Ewen Cameron, director of the psychiatric hospital between 1943 and 1964.
Cameron served as a co-founder of the World Psychiatric Association and president of various other psychiatric associations over his career. He was known to be a part of the CIA’s MK Ultra program which ran "depatterning" and "psychic driving" experiments that attempted to erase a patient's memories and reprogram their thoughts.
The psychiatrist faced criticism after it was revealed that he tested experimental drugs like LSD and PCP, medically induced sleep for extended periods, and oversaw extreme forms of electroshock therapy and sensory deprivation that left many of his subjects with extreme forms of brain damage.
Cameron was provided with more than $500,000 between 1950 and 1965 by the federal government. He also received a smaller amount of funding from the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, a front organization for the Central Intelligence Agency.
While many victims of these experiments have since passed away, some of their family members have documents that share first-hand accounts of the experiments that were allegedly conducted at the facility.
Angela Bardosh showed CTV Montreal a letter from her mother, Nancy Layton, that read in part: "They destroyed many parts of me. I'm lucky to be alive."
According to Bardosh, Layton was admitted to the facility at the age of 18 due to depression. Within six months of Cameron’s treatment, her mother allegedly developed acute schizophrenia.
“It's horrific to go back, it's very emotional,” said Bardosh. “For me, personally, it took years to even read my mom's medical records.”
The victims and their families have now banded together to seek retribution for the injustice done to them. The group hopes to file a class-action lawsuit against the Quebec and federal governments, and possibly McGill as well, seeking damages and an apology for the suffering 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 attorney representing the victims.
In 1992, 77 former patients of the program were compensated by then Justice Minister Kim Campbell. However, the government refused compensation to many others because they were deemed not damaged enough.