Allan Memorial Institute victims seek to sue CIA

Click to play video: 'Allan Memorial victims in Quebec hope to sue the CIA'
Allan Memorial victims in Quebec hope to sue the CIA
WATCH: Lawyers for families subjected to painful experimental medical treatments at the Allan Memorial Institute were back in a Montreal courtroom on Thursday. The families are hoping to launch a class action lawsuit against the Canadian government, the MUHC and the CIA. One hurdle though, is US lawyers argue the CIA is immune from being sued. But as Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports, the alleged victims are appealing that decision. – Mar 30, 2023

Victims and their families of experimental treatments that took place at the Allan Memorial Institute in the 1950s and ’60s are hoping to sue the CIA, as part of a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for what happened.

Lawyers for the victims and the U.S. government presented arguments at the Quebec Court of Appeal Thursday morning.

About 300 individuals and families are trying to launch a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian government, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), the Royal Victoria Hospital and the CIA for what happened. The CIA partially funded the psychological experimentation project, known as MK-Ultra, between 1957 and 1960.

Dr. Ewan Cameron and his colleagues conducted painful and life-altering tests that included induced comas with insulin, forcing patients to listen to disturbing messages for hours at a time, LSD treatments that caused hallucinations, and electro-shock therapy.

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Last year, Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of the U.S. government, who had argued they had immunity from being sued in Canada, because laws during the time of the experiments protected them. They won their request to have the case dismissed.

The plaintiffs are pursuing an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Malcolm Ruby, a lawyer for the United States Attorney General, argued in court that the United States should be exempt from from any civil liability in Canadian courts, because they had immunity during the period the experiments happened.

“In the absence of legislative history, this should not apply to past events. The law speaks prospectively. It does not speak retroactively,” he told Justices Julie Dutil, Stephen W. Hamilton and Sophie Lavallée.

Plaintiff lawyer Jeff Orenstein believes a change in Canadian law in the 1980s should allow the lawsuit to proceed.

“I think in this particular case, I think the idea is everyone who took part who had some responsibility to play in this situation has to be held accountable,” said Orenstein.

“We are claiming the law is retrospective, meaning you can look back at even something that happened before the act was passed, and you can still apply it today. Which means you could sue in Canadian courts for bodily injury.”

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Judy Trapp is the lead plaintiff in the case. She says the treatment her father received left him destroyed.

“It’s sad to think about what could have been. It was a waste of a life for my father, terrible for my mother and just a giant loss and void for us kids.”

Marla Vineberg says her uncle received treatment when he was 17, and was left in need of help and care for the rest of his life.

“It was my family’s dirty little secret. There was a lot of shame, there was a lot of pain associated with it,” Vineberg said.

“Learning about what happened to him, reading his medical file, was very shocking, was very difficult. I am seeking an apology, an admission that they are all at fault for what happened”

The Court of Appeal is expected to issue its decision within six months. The state of the class-action lawsuit is in abeyance until the decision is rendered.

Click to play video: 'Survivors of the Montreal experiments at Allen Memorial Institute rally for justice'
Survivors of the Montreal experiments at Allen Memorial Institute rally for justice

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