Duplessis' Orphans: Abuse at the Hands of Mental Institutions
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Duplessis' Orphans: Abuse at the Hands of Mental Institutions

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 become wards of the courts.

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 become wards of the courts. These children were left to the less than scrupulous dealings of the Quebec Government under the leadership of the then premier of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis. All basic human rights were taken away from them. These children 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 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.





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Comments (14)

That is an incredible story. So many things happened then that we hope wouldn't be able to happen today.

Oh this is just wrong

Gosh, this is news to me. And not nice to read

yes Val, Susan and Rox, it is a horrible, horrible thing and it was happening pretty much all over the world.

Excellent article. I had heard of this or something like years ago and found it pretty terrifying.

Absolutely shocking. Excellent exposure

martha it is horrible, and worse still for me to think that it happened right here in montreal, it could have been anyone of my family members if they were mentally ill back then.

yes it is absolutely shocking Suzann

It is shocking, it kills me :(

yes Amy it is very shocking

It upsets me, since my son is mentally ill. It really just makes me thank God that we live in the millenium and not about thirty or forty years ago!

psychology is my profession and this happened all over the world but the duplessis orphans are from here in montreal and it upsets me to think any one of these unfortunate people could have been members of my family if they were in that unfortunate situation. This was my mother's generation and my aunts and uncles generation, it really scares me.

It is a very scary prospect.

yes it is absolutely horrible