"At 33, she has taken it on her shoulders to confront her family's dark story in an exhibition of sculptures and works on paper that come from her core. Before coming to meet with her, I reviewed the facts: In the mid-fifties, her late maternal grandmother, Velma Orlikow, was diagnosed with postpartum depression. She was sent to Montreal for treatment, to the Allan Memorial Institute at McGill University, the site of now infamous mind-control experiments under the direction of Dr. Ewen Cameron.
Though her family didn't know it at the time, the clinic was receiving funding from the CIA to conduct procedures in brainwashing. The project was called MK-Ultra, and the team made the Winnipeg mother of two, and a number of other patients, their unwitting subjects. “They were looking for the ideal Manchurian Candidate,” Johnson says. “It's almost impossible to believe, it is just so crazy.”
Over the course of several stays, her grandmother was subjected to intensive electro-convulsive therapy, with an aim to wipe her memory clean for re-programming.
“Dr. Cameron called it psychic driving. He was willing to push his experiments to the limit,” Johnson says. The medical records also show that her grandmother was the subject of 14 experiments with LSD.
“When I was little, I used to go every day and spend a couple of hours at my Nan's house after school, waiting for my parents to finish work,” Johnson recalls, remembering her grandmother's later years. “There were always so many books and magazines stacked up everywhere in her house, and I used to think: ‘Wow, she is so smart to have read all of this stuff.' It was only later that I understood it could take her a month to read a newspaper, or a week to write a note. Before the hospital, she had been a huge reader, but now she just was sitting there in the middle of her own failure.”
Johnson, who has read her grandmother's journals, marvels at her vulnerability. “In those days, you didn't ask questions, and my grandfather was convinced that she was receiving the best cutting-edge care,” Johnson says. Her journals report that she protested the treatment, but the doctors prevailed. “One of them was from Scotland, and he would say, ‘Now lassie, you know you have to trust me.' She fell in love with him I think. In her journals, she writes about his hands, his voice. She gave her sanity over to him. How can a person do that?” If she failed to comply with treatment, Johnson says, the doctors would tell her she was a bad mother and a bad wife, unwilling to take the steps necessary to get better for her family's sake.
It was by fluke that they came to understand what had happened to her. The New York Times broke the story of the experiments in an article in 1977. “My grandfather happened to read it and he thought, ‘Wait, those are the years Vel was there.' ” She mobilized herself, leading a group of seven other former patients and waging a class-action suit against the CIA. (In 1988, they finally settled out of court, each receiving less than $80,000.) “She was just such a fighter,” Johnson says, describing the life her grandmother would make for herself in the aftermath, travelling with her husband, David Orlikow, who became an NDP member of Parliament. “I mean, she was one of the first Canadian women to go to China. I have a picture of her patting a lion in Africa.”
The damage, though, was irreversible . . . ."
Dr. Ewen Cameron (see also here and here and here and here - note how the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney screwed its own citizens) was one of the most evil men who ever lived (it would have been a blessing if, at the time of his interview with Hess, they let Hess go and locked Cameron up for the rest of his life). His mad scientist experiments were funded by the CIA (and the Canadian government).