CIA, Canadian government funded cold-war era experiments at 
Psychology Department

By Josh Ginsberg
News Writer - McGill Daily

Five decades after a McGill researcher subjected her to massive 
electroshocks, experimental drugs, and forced her to listen to hours 
of recorded messages as part of a U.S. experiment in brainwashing, a 
Montreal woman is seeking compensation from the Canadian government.

Janine Huard was one of hundreds of people who Dr. Ewen Cameron 
experimented on without their knowledge in the late 1950s and early 
1960s. Last week, her lawyers argued before a federal court judge 
that she should be allowed to file a class-action lawsuit against the 
government of Canada, who funded the experiments jointly with the 
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Cameron first treated Huard in 1951 when she went to see him for post-
partum depression. She continued to see the doctor until 1962, during 
which time she served unwittingly as a participant in Cameron’s 

As director of McGill’s Allan Memorial Institute, Cameron developed 
“psychic driving,” a technique that he hoped would cure mental 
patients by erasing their memories and constructing a new psyche for 
them. To this end, Cameron used electroshock and drugs such as LSD to 
“depattern” his patients, returning them to a childlike state and 
leaving them open to suggestions from recordings played over and over 
again while they slept. His work attracted the attention of the CIA 
who, from 1957 to 1960, funded Cameron’s research as part of the 
infamous Project MKULTRA, aimed at developing a mind-control technique.

Huard received $67,000 U.S. from the CIA in 1988 as recompense for 
her ordeal, but has been denied similar compensation from the 
Canadian government three times on the grounds that she was not fully 
depatterned. In 1994, the government handed out $100,000 to 77 of 
Cameron’s victims.

In a book on the experiments first published in 1988, author Anne 
Collins supports the government’s contention, writing that although 
Huard was exposed to electric shock and drugs “to the point that she 
had suffered extended periods of involuntary trembling,” she was not 
actually depatterned.

But Huard’s lawyer Allan Stein disputed this claim.

“In my opinion, [Huard] was totally depatterned. She was subjected to 
not only electroschock treatment but also psychic driving,” he said.

So far, the court has not decided whether to allow the class action 
suit to proceed. The government is contesting the application on the 
grounds that Huard waited too long to file the suit – Cameron died 
more than 40 years ago, and it has been ten years since the court 
rejected her last claim.

Stein was unwilling to express optimism that the court would 
ultimately allow the suit to proceed. However, he said that the 
merits of the case and the exceptional circumstances surrounding it 
were strong enough to justify a decision in Huard’s favour. He also 
encouraged the public to write letters in support of Huard to Justice 
Minister Robert Nicholson.

Stein added that he was surprised and disappointed that McGill has 
not made a public statement about the case, or apologized for what 
happened to Huard.

By press time, no McGill official would comment on the matter.
Edward Dunbar
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310/536-0211, ex. 3