Previously published in Factoidz and Examiner
One of the biggest tragedies in Montreal history was the abuse of the Duplessis Orphans during the 1940 -1950’s. These children were orphans, or born out of wedlock, and abandoned to the less than scrupulous dealings of the Quebec Government under the leadership of the then premier of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis.
The orphans were taken out of their sanctuaries and sent to mental institutions; yet, they were healthy children with no history of mental illness. The reason for incarcerating was financial. There were more federal government grants afforded mental institutions than there were grants provided for orphanages.
The Verdun Protestant Hospital, now called the Douglas Hospital was one of the many mental hospitals that these children were sent to.
Montreal psychiatrist Heinz Lehmann who was the head psychiatry at the time, revealed to Quebec Magazine, L’Actualite, in 1993, that even in the 50’s the psychiatrists knew the difference between children with mental disorders and healthy children like the Duplessis orphans. Yet, these poor children were subjected to sexual and physical abuse, electroshock, straitjackets. and lobotomies.
According the California based investigation magazine Freedom, a Montreal physician from the Hospice St. Jean de Dieu (now Louis-Hyppolite Lafontaine Hospital) confirmed he saw Lehmann and his colleague at the Verdun Protestant hospital at the time. He has reason to believe that experimentation was going on.
This same doctor was provided samples of the drug and tried it; stopping after a few days due to the adverse affects. He was experiencing, “tremors and akinesia – a loss or reduction of normal abilities to move the body.”
Professor Frederic Grunberg of the University of Montreal, stated that Cameron and colleagues were funded by the Dominion-Provincial Mental Health grants, administered by the Mental Health Division of the Department of National Health and Welfare.
Lehmann did conduct clinical trials of the drug chlorpromazine at the Verdun Protestant Hospital. In 1952, 500 patients or so were subjected to the clinical phases of drug testing. By 1957 the drug was approved for use in Canada.
Freedom goes on to say that, “Cameron also received money from Sidney Gottlieb of U.S. intelligence, architect of the various “mind control” programs that utilized coercive psychiatric methods in efforts to control human behavior.”
Both Lehmann and Cameron are celebrated psychiatrists. Their work is commendable, though many critics including the Duplessis Orphan survivors disagree.