Canada & MKULTRA: The Surprising History of Brainwashing in the Great White North

Back in October 2017, it was revealed that the Canadian government had issued a 100k settlement to Allison Steel, the daughter of Jean Steel, a psych patient who was subjected to horrific mind-control experiments. These experiments included but were not limited to: electroshock therapy, chemically assisted sleep inductions, involuntary use of psychedelic drugs, and a technique called psychic driving.

Psychic driving is the practice of subjecting a comatose patient to looped audio messages in an attempt to deprogram (or depattern) an individual so that they may be reprogramed by doctors at a later date. In theory, this would allow officials to remove any undesirable mental illnesses or traits. The issue with this however is that practitioners can not entirely control what is replaced therefore damaging memories and some basic cognitive function. Some of the victims who were subjected to extreme bouts of psychic driving couldn’t even remember how to tie their own shoes or hold their bowels. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

These techniques were administered and overseen by then renowned psychologist Dr. Ewen Cameron who helmed psychological research at McGill University in Canada and was involved with several associations (The American Psychiatric Association, World Psychiatric Association, and the Society of Biological Psychology to name a few), even acting as the president of some. 

These accolades and positions did little to influence his ethics however as he commanded covert MKULTRA-style brainwashing experiments at the behest of the C.I.A. While some claim that his work was well intentioned at the time and he is on the wrong side of a posthumous smear campaign, it is undeniable that these practices caused irrevocable to damage to many of the patients that were forced to endure them. 

MKULTRA goes deep and semi-declassified documents shows that the American government had no qualms about using psychedelics (usually LSD) during enhanced interrogations or on unsuspecting citizens back then. While those methods have “officially” gone the way of the dinosaur, it is still anyone’s guess as to what is actually going on at government sanctioned black-sites. It’s mind boggling to think that after almost sixty years, we are still uncovering just how diabolical psychology could be when weaponized for propaganda or outright mind-control. It really poses an interesting question… In another sixty years, what will we learn about how these methodologies were administered for the average citizen in 2018?

While brainwashing tactics and MKULTRA have been confirmed via C.I.A and F.B.I documents, it is still alarming to see that the effects of a “defunct” program can still be felt today. For the Canadian government at least, the actions of those who spearheaded psychological reprograming operations are ones that they’d like to keep buried in the annuls of the country’s history.

While I am quite familiar with Dr. Humphry Osmond who coined the term psychedelic with the author of the seminal entheogenic doctrine Doors of Perception, I was almost entirely oblivious to the extent of covert psy-ops carried out by our northern counterparts. Despite being fairly obvious, it is still unsettling see the global influence American defense and intelligence agencies possess.

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