Canada Settles with Brainwash Victims


Robert Davis

Gannett News Service, November 19, 1992



Linda Macdonald checked into a Montreal psychiatric hospital in 1963 be­cause she was depressed.

Five months later she was released—her mind emptied.

She didn’t remember her husband, her children or the first 26 years of her life.

She couldn’t read, write, cook a meal or make a bed.

One of the world’s leading psychiatrists, funded by the CIA, had brain­washed her by: 

r Drugging her with assorted medicines, including LSD.

r Making her sleep 86 days.

r Repeated electroshocks.

r “Psychic driving”—playing repeated taped messages 16 hours a day for days on end. 

Neither Macdonald nor her family gave their permission and later sued.

This week the Canadian government, which didn’t dispute that Macdonald and at least 79 other patients were brainwashed by the late Ewen Cameron, fi­nally settled.

In Ottawa, Justice Minister Kim Campbell decided victims still living will get $79,000.

“I accept the government’s symbolic apology through compensation,” Mac­donald said in a statement from Los Angeles, where she is meeting with film producers. “But no amount of money can compensate me for the loss of mem­ory . . . and the enormous difficulties my family and I have suffered.”

The CIA and the Canadian government funded Cameron’s “de-patterning” experiments in Montreal in the 1950s and ‘60s. The CIA hoped to learn how to counter brainwashing techniques thought to have been developed by the com­munists.

But during an early test, Frank Olson, one of the CIA and Army scientists who was secretly given an LSD-laced drink, killed himself.

Yet two years later, the CIA began funding Cameron, contributing about $60,000.

The U.S. government reached a settlement in 1988, agreeing to pay Mac­donald and eight others who sued about $100,000.

“It’s a sad chapter from more than 30 years ago,” said CIA spokesman John Hedley. “It’s now a closed chapter.”

Lawyer James Turner represented the victims with Joseph Rauh Jr., a famed civil rights lawyer who died Sept. 3.

“As bizarre as this case was, none of the facts were in dispute,” Turner said. “Wheels of justice grind exceedingly slowly sometimes.”