Victim owed compensation in CIA case, judge told
Montreal woman who was experimented on should receive reparations, lawyer says
MONTREAL -- Patients were put in isolation, tied down or drugged, and subjected to hours and hours of taped recordings meant to brainwash them at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency.
They were subjected to massive electroshocks, experimental drugs and LSD, most of them unwilling and unknowingly part of the U.S. spy agency's experimentation, a Federal Court judge was told yesterday.
Now it's time for the federal government to compensate those victims, lawyer Alan Stein argued.
Mr. Stein is seeking court approval for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of his client, Janine Huard, one of the hundreds of patients of Ewen Cameron to be subjected to the Cold War-era experiments.
"She never knew that she was being subjected to these experiments or that she was being used by Dr. Cameron and his staff as a guinea pig," Mr. Stein told the court.
Dr. Cameron 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 CIA, which recruited Dr. Cameron to experiment with mind-control techniques beginning in 1950. The experiments carried out at the Allan Memorial Institute at McGill University were jointly funded by the CIA and the Canadian government.
They were part of a larger CIA program called MK-ULTRA, which also saw LSD administered to U.S. prison inmates and patrons of brothels without their knowledge, according to testimony before a 1977 U.S. Senate committee.
Ms. Huard, a petite great-grandmother who will be 79 at the end of the month, was a patient of Dr. Cameron three separate times from 1951 to 1962.
She said she was drugged, shocked and forced to listen to recorded messages for hours on end, day after day.
"It was torture," she said outside the court yesterday.
Ms. Huard said it left her unable to care for her four children and plagued with migraines and memory loss.
Ms. Huard was one of nine Canadian victims who received nearly $67,000 (U.S.) from the CIA in 1988 to compensate her for her suffering.
But her claim for compensation from the federal government, which jointly funded the experiments, was rejected three times.
Frederic Paquin, the lawyer for the federal Attorney-General, said the government does not contest that Ms. Huard underwent the treatments she claims.
"It's in the medical record," Mr. Paquin told the court.
But he argued it's too late for a lawsuit, more than four decades after Dr. Cameron's death and more than a decade after her claim was rejected.
In 1994, 77 patients were awarded $100,000 each from the federal government, but more than 250 others were denied compensation because they were not "totally depatterned."
Although a 2004 federal appeal court decision overruled that criterion in another patient's case and awarded her the $100,000, the Crown has stood by the original decisions to deny Ms. Huard's claim.
Ms. Huard's lawyers argued that she did suffer serious harm and failed to file a lawsuit earlier only because she didn't have enough money.
"It's unbelievable that this took place," Mr. Stein told the court.
The Crown told the judge that it's difficult to pass judgment today on the treatments of yesterday.
Electroshock therapy is still in use, Mr. Paquin told the court, and lobotomies were once common.
"We haven't compensated people who received lobotomies during that era, either," he told the court.
A decision on whether the application can proceed is expected at a later date.