A bizarre class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government may not proceed after the Québec Court of Appeal said the country cannot be sued in Canada for its alleged role in brainwashing psychiatric patients.
The lawsuit — which has not been authorized by a judge — claims Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron performed unlawful experiments at the Allan Memorial Institute between 1948 and 1964 as part of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program on covert mind-control.
The program allegedly received joint funding from the Canadian government and the CIA during that period for experiments at the Institute in conjunction with McGill University.
But a 3-0 decision rendered on October 2 contends a 1982 Canadian law on suing foreign states cannot be used retroactively.
As many as 300 families could have participated in the class action if approved.
The January 2019 class-action application against McGill, the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Canadian and U.S. governments alleged Montrealers had their memories erased by the experiments.
Despite staying the appeal, the plaintiffs said the trial judge should not have granted the U.S. immunity on the matter, as they believe they can be sued retroactively under Canada’s 1982 State Immunity Act.
The plaintiffs say the act permits lawsuits in cases of bodily injury, and exemptions exist for commercial lawsuits during the period the experiments are alleged to have happened.
However, lawyers representing the U.S. attorney general rebuked the notion and said that such a lawsuit should be filed in a U.S. court.
Jeffrey Orenstein, the plaintiffs lawyer, told The Canadian Press they are reviewing all legal options, including an application for leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada.
“However, the bodily injury exception to state immunity has been in effect since 1982,” said Orenstein.
“The U.S. government would not be able to enjoy absolute immunity today in relation to the facts as outlined in our class action,” he added. “We believe they did not have immunity at the time the alleged acts took place.”