Tales from The Douglas Psychiatric Institute for the Insane / WKT5 #18
Remember Dr. Sleep / Gilles Lefebvre from the Real Chartrand episode? Guess where he ended up practicing when he returned from Morocco? The Douglas Psychiatric Institute for the Insane.
I’m speaking about the doctor of the patient on leave from the Pinel Institute who over the course of a thanksgiving weekend in 1971 shot and killed constable Gabriel Labelle in the village of Ste. Therese, Quebec north of Montreal. This is all detailed in an earlier post, More of a Psychopath than his Patient. Recall that Dr. Gilles Lefebvre was initially Chartrand’s attending psychiatrist at the Pinel Insitute, but the doctor developed an inappropriate relationship with his patient, plying him with money and gifts and an expensive car – a Pontiac GTO. Dr. Lefebvre was eventually fired from Pinel, and his license was revoked for his actions in the Chartrand affaire. He went into exile, spending seven years in Morocco, but when he came back he was almost immediately hired by Montreal’s English psychiatric hospital, the Douglas Institute. More on Lefebvre later. We’ve done an episode on the Philippe Pinel Institute for the Criminally Insane, today’s story is about The Douglas.
It has many names; The Douglas Hospital, the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, the Douglas Research Centre, locals refer to it as just the Douglas or ‘Dougie’. It was originally called the Protestant Hospital for the Insane to distinguish it from the Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Asylum, the Catholic hospital offering similar services to French patients. Like most things in Montreal that separate the French from the English, Saint-Jean-de-Dieu was located in the East End of the island near Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. When it burned down in 1890, Saint-Jean-de-Dieu was reborn as the Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine, or the ‘Louis-H’, for a time one of the largest psychiatric facilities in Quebec. The Protestant Hospital, which became the Douglas, is located in the West End region of Verdun, across the Lachine Canal from Parc Angrignon.
The Douglas Institute is now affiliated with Montreal’s largest and oldest academic facility, McGill University (The Pinel Psychiatric Institute – located in the East End, to the north shares an association with the largest French academic institution, The University of Montreal). It’s not entirely irrelevant to mention that McGill was also the home to the Allan Memorial Institute – but let’s all be friends, call it the ‘Allen’ – a psychiatric facility on the McGill campus that in the 1950s and ’60s was heavily involved in the CIA’s Project MKUltra, a program to help the United States to attempt to weaponize mind control. We could spend an entire episode on MK Ultra, for now, let us say that the program involved the experimentation on human subjects with paralytic drugs like LSD, and subjecting patients to prolonged drug-induced comas ( There’s a book on the Montreal experiments called In The Sleep Room by Anne Collins who was one of my editors at Penguin Random House). This is not a story about MK Ultra. If you’re looking for that tale, I’ve heard the podcast, Endless Thread did a five-part series on MKUltra called Madness. Any Montreal message board will provide you with stories of the misfortunes of somebody’s grandad locked in a dog cage or the sexual and drug abuses of someone’s great auntie under the care of Dr. Ewen Cameron. When everyone from Errol Morris to the Church of Scientology has profiled MK Ultra I figure that shark has been jumped. Though it is startling that McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry webpage has a history of the department mentioning Ewen Cameron and the Allen Memorial Institute with a straight face, but never once eluding to medical experiments on behalf of the CIA.
When the Douglas first proposed in 1881, local farmers protested that an insane asylum would sour their milk and haunt the land with madness and mayhem. A more accurate argument was that a mental health facility might lower property values.
Complaints about the Douglas had been reported for years. In the summer of 1966, the body of a 20-year-old man was found near the Mount Royal lookout, a popular destination for Montreal tourists. The decomposed remains were just a few yards from the chalet restaurant for sightseers. The man was from Verdun, and a possible patient at the Douglas. Reports had been circulating to police of patients missing from the hospital.
Possibly in response to any bad publicity, in the spring of 1968, the Douglas Memorial Hospital conducted an open house, extending a welcome to the public:
Douglas Shows Off Hospital
“Douglas Memorial Hospital – a home for the mentally ill – threw open its doors to the public yesterday to promote better understanding of its care for the patients.
And what the public saw were recreation centres, shops, a bakery and a lot of people receiving the best of care.
In the shops people work for 10 cents an hour or for nothing. The money is not important. Finding themselves is.
The calm of the hospital allows them to be creative and they don’t have to fight their way home in rush-hour traffic.
The staff smiles – and the visitor has the impression that they smile as well when the press and potential fund contributors aren’t there.
Miss Stewart is an occupational therapist. Her job is to help bring patients back to reality in the conventional sense and she gives the impression she really cares about it.
The photographer was looking for children but none could be found.
“The last time we did this, the kids became overly emotional at seeing people from the outside while they were here.” She said.
It wasn’t a condemnation of either the outside world or the kids. It was simply a case of being human.
And that’s what the hospital is all about.”Douglas Shows Off Hospital, The Gazette, May 8, 1968, Page 51.
Despite the effort, chafing continued between the hospital and Verdun community. In May 1969, heroin addict, Stanley Best turned himself in for treatment at the Douglas Hospital arguing, “It is very difficult to withdraw. I need to be away from the milieu for six months.” Best was soon back on the streets and arrested for drug peddling. The judge called him, “worse than a murderer.”
In April 1972, 20-year-old Ronald Rich escaped from the Douglas Hospital and murdered his 55-year-old mother. The coroner’s inquest took 10 minutes to find Rich criminally responsible. Ronald Rich admitted to the axe-slaying, but said he didn’t know why he killed his mother.
In 1973, residents of Verdun demanded that the then 1,200 patients be given less freedom to walk the hospital grounds, complaining of imagined and real prowlers and break-ins. Argued City Councilor, Roger Seguin, “Our constituents are on both sides of that wall – they’re inside that hospital as well as outside. We have to consider both.”
An early suspect in the 1974 murder of 12-year-old Norma O’Brien was not the man eventually sentenced to a mental institution for her murder, Chateauguay killer, Daniel Couillard, but a patient who went missing from the Douglas. No name was ever released, but the suspect was about 25 years old and weighed approximately 250 pounds. The inmate admitted to having been in the area where O’Brien’s body was found in some bushes near Francois Blvd. in July 1974. O’Brien’s left leg was broken during the assault. She had been gagged with her hairbrush and beaten with a rock.
In the spring of 1975, a 27-year-old patient was found floating in the aqueduct of a Verdun waterworks plant. The young man had been missing since Christmas. In the summer of 1979 a 39-year-old patient went missing and was found hours later drowned in the St. Lawrence River. In November 1985, an elderly man was found beaten to death with a rake on the grounds of the Douglas.
We’ve talked a lot about the Douglas in past posts. One of the themes that developed, but was not fully explored was the number of suspects and victims of murder or sexual assault, – particularly in the Teresa Martin affaire – who had some affiliation with the psychiatric institute. Shirley Audette, for instance, murdered in 1969, was a former patient of the Douglas. Wayne Boden eventually confessed to her murder.
Claudia Beauvais was a 21-year-old First Nations woman from the Caughnawaga ( Kahnawake ) reserve on the south shore of Montreal. The Montreal Gazette described her as having the “mental state of a 4 to 5-year-old-child”. Since 1965 she had been interned at the Douglas Memorial Psychiatric Institute. She received treatment, but was not confined to a room or ward, free to roam outside the institution and to visit her parents on weekends. On the evening of July 3, 1969, Claudia went to see a movie screened on the Douglas campus. Later that evening she did not return to her room. On July 8th her mutilated body was found hidden in some bushes. The Quebec tabloid, Allo Police wrote, “it was evident a veritable human monster was responsible as the butchery was indescribable.” Police did not suspect one of the other 2,000 patients on the Douglas campus. The grounds and buildings were searched, but no blood or evidence were found within the residences. Suspicions were cast on a visitor, or possibly an out-patient.
Because she was Mohawk and from the Kahnawake reserve, Claudia Beauvais’ case generated little media attention, and so very little information. However, I was able to obtain a copy of Beauvais’ coroner records and the information is revealing. Children found the body of Claudia Beauvais. Three kids between the ages of 8 and 10 living in Verdun climbed under the fence in their backyard onto the grounds of the Douglas. They immediately ran home and told their mother they had found a dead body in the bushes. Their mother didn’t believe them, but as the children kept insisting, a neighbor decided to check things out. He returned and told the mother, “I think that something happened there”, and she immediately called the Douglas Hospital. Coroner Laurin Lapointe was insistent as to why she hadn’t bothered to also inform the police. For this Mrs. O’Reilly didn’t have an answer.
According to the statement given by her father, 63-year-old J Beauvais, Claudia had been living at the Douglas for about 4 to 5 years. As was her habit, she had spent the proceeding weekend with her parents at their home on the Lake Front in Caughnawaga. J Beauvais went with his son to the medical examiner’s to identify the body.
The next witness interviewed by the coroner was Henry Fanning, a Pinkerton security guard working at the Douglas Hospital. He received a call from the hospital switchboard that “children had reported having seen a man lying down and being asleep.” Fanning searched a wooded area on the grounds where two other children pointed to where the body was located. Under cross-questioning the security guard admitted that he was not aware that Claudia Beauvais had been missing, despite a 5 day window from when she was last seen until her body was discovered. Upon discovery, Fanning immediately called the Verdun police.
The last witness interviewed by Coroner Lapointe was Sergeant-detective Arthur Roussy of the Verdun police. Roussy received the call from Fanning and immediately proceeded to the hospital. After seeing the body, he notified the city morgue of the discovery. As of the date of his interview, September 26, 1969 – almost three months after the murder – Sergeant-detective Roussy, one of the lead investigators on the case, had no further developments to report on the investigation. The coroner’s determination ruled that Beauvais had been “mutilated with an instrument that was sharp and penetrating”. Perhaps like a surgical instrument.
Initially a 34-year-old taxi driver from Toronto was held for questioning when he was seen lurking near the wooded area where Beauvais’s body was found. By mid-July, police gave a statement, “The condition of the victim’s body leads us to believe we are dealing with a mentally-deranged person who may strike again.” It wasn’t until 1973, over four years since Beauvais’ murder, that attention turned to an offender named William “Bill” Market (also known as Bill Mason and Bill Reid), suspected of killing three women since 1969. Market had been a patient at the Douglas. He went to trial in 1973 for the stabbing death of Christine Harding. Harding had also been a patient at the Douglas. Market was originally from Verdun, and was now also being considered for the murder of Beauvais. He was set to stand trial for her murder as well, but the Crown ultimately withdrew the charge. The murders of Christine Harding and Claudia Beauvais remain unsolved.
So what happened to Bill Market? For a time there was speculation that he might have been Bill Morton, the sometime Sherbrooke Record reporter and Bishop’s divinity student who went on to assault a patient at a Dixville, Quebec home for the handicapped in 1979. In 2015, now an ordained minister, this same Bill Morton was charged for an assault on a member of his parish in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. The suspicion proved false after a conversation with the New Brunswick RCMP. Bill Market had been wanted for questioning in 1973 by the RCMP for a murder in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia ( the third murder for which he was suspected). The St. Stephen detachment of the RCMP confirmed to me that Bill Morton and Bill Market were not the same person.
As mentioned, Bill Market had also been an “intermittent” patient at the Douglas “for about 10 years”. This places him at the hospital concurrently with Claudia Beauvais in 1969, and Christine Harding in 1973. As part of his legal process for the Harding murder, Market was admitted to the Pinel Institute at the time of his arrest for a 30-day psychiatric evaluation. Market was found fit to stand trial, but then the Crown decided not to proceed. So what happened?
It would appear that the Crown changed it’s mind, and that Market was immediately sentenced to a mental institution, either Pinel or the Douglas. A reader / listener of this website and podcast named Jo found Bill Market currently working for Nathon Kong, a fashion designer operating in the heart of Montreal. On their website, Market is described as a Montrealer who, “spent more than 40 years of his life in a mental institution, only to get out at the age of 65.” If this is true, Market, who was 22 in 1973, would have been released from some mental institution around 2010.
Nathon Kong is described as, “Fashion Accessories with a purpose” promoting that “100% of all proceeds are given back to the community to support and raise awareness for mental health.”
All of this is very fine and commendable, but I have to ask, what about Claudia Beauvais and Christine Harding? Maybe Market wasn’t responsible for their deaths. If he wasn’t, I think the public has a right to know the argument for excluding Bill Market as a suspect in these unsolved murders. I am glad Bill Market got treatment. Did Beauvais and Harding receive justice?
The Ebony Totem ( Electro-Shock Blues)
In 1980, Doctor Gilles Lefebvre slipped quietly back into Canada and resumed his psychiatric responsibilities, this time at the Douglas, the hospital was coping with a shortage of psychiatrists at that time. Disgraced and fired from the Pinel Institute in 1972 for his role in the Real Chartrand affair, it took authorities seven years to realize their blunder. It wasn’t until 1987, when Chartrand was appealing his life sentence, that the courts noticed that the man accused of gross negligence in the matter which lead to Chartrand shooting a Ste. Therese police constable – a man who plied Chartrand with psychotic drugs in an attempt to engage in a sexual relationship with his patient – was now in charge of the Community Psychiatric Centre in Verdun.
The details that lead to Lefebvre’s dismissal from Pinel were described in a document known as the Clement report, handed over to the Quebec Corporation of Physicians and Surgeons and never made public. The Douglas Hospital wasn’t aware of the report when it hired Lefebvre in 1980, though Lefebvre did inform a Douglas board of directors member, Gaston Harnois at the time he was hired that he had been fired from Pinel and suspended by the Quebec Corporation of Physicians,
“the past is in the past. Who among us is perfect?” – Gaston HarnoisEloise Morin, Fired after scandal in ’72, Douglas psychiatrist attacked by patients’ group, The Gazette, June 3, 1987, Page 1.
A patients-rights spokesperson commented, “We would be happier if he were in private practice where he wouldn’t have so much power over patients.” This appears to be precisely what happened. When exactly Dr. Gilles Lefebvre left the Douglas Hospital in Verdun is unknown, but he was practicing psychiatry privately in the neighboring borough of LaSalle until his death in 2005.
For over a decade, the Douglas appeared to have weathered the storm. In 1988 The Gazette ran a series on the “Crisis In Mental Health”, a full-feature on the Douglas with Harnois sermonizing “There’s is a wall between the mentally ill and the community,” if people “open their minds and their hearts to these people these programs will work.”
Then in 1999 Health Minister Pauline Marois ordered an assessment of alleged mismanagement and improper care of patients at the Douglas Hospital. The chief accusation was that the Douglas had begun to change its mission, emphasizing research over patient care ( hence the slow name progression to the the Douglas Hospital Research Centre). The reports got even more specific when it revealed that patients’ teeth were literally rotting from their mouths. Hospital administrators fought back, blaming poor patient care on the provincial government’s slashing of budgets, which forced the hospital to seek more private donations – which then tend to come with strings tied to research mandates. Complaints continued of less vulnerable patients were being locked in wards with other violent and aggressive patients, mice and cockroach infestation, and that the government had cut budgets by $10 million over five years:
“The best way for the government to intervene is to reinject money into the hospital because the situation is very grave” – Henri-Francois GautrinAaron Derfel, Douglas probe ordered, The Gazette, April 17, 1999. Page 3.
Within a week Quebec government health inspectors deemed conditions at the hospital as “acceptable”, and called protests from reporters “misleading, erroneous and unfounded.”:
“according to the information available to us, it seems the Douglas Hospital has the situation in hand and that the quality of services and the premises are not under question.”Kate Swoger, Inspectors back Douglas, The Gazette, April 22, 1999, Page 3.
In a follow up article in May 1999, Aaron Derfel profiled a patient who for years was plagued by unexplained injuries such as bruises and cuts to the face. Said the patient’s daughter, “We were appalled at the care my mother was given.”, reliving the horror of her mother’s swollen face. By the time of her death, 56-year-old Betty Burke weighed less than 98 pounds.
In 2019 the Douglas Hospital was again under scrutiny. That spring, a 41-year-old male patient attacked an orderly, then a month later the same patient assaulted a nurse by repeatedly banging their head against a ward floor. Questions arose whether the hospital took the necessary precautions after the first assault. The patient was arrested for the second aggravated assault, but a union official said the inmate was well known for aggressive behavior:
“We need to sit down with the employer to improve the situation for the staff and the patients.”Douglas hospital under scrutiny amid revelations, Aaron Derfel, The Gazette, June 14, 2019, Page A1
Asked what precautions the hospital intended to take, officials replied that they could not disclose information related to patients. In September 2018 another employee had been stabbed by a patient. Staff complained that the Douglas did not have enough employees to meet the needs of patients.
This has not been about Project MK Ultra. Nevertheless, you can’t help but wonder about some things. Did research at the Allen Memorial Institute influence work being done at other medical facilities like the Douglas, or Pinel, or the Louis H? Both Claudia Beauvais and Bill Market would have been interned at the Douglas in the mid-sixties. Is it possible they were subjected to some of the same drug treatments administered at the Allen at the same time? Was the drug administered to Real Chartrand by Dr. Gilles Lefebvre, Glutethimide, with the brand-name Doriden, also used by Dr. Ewen Cameron? The most commonly used term to describe the sort of mind control undertaken in the MKUltra experiments is ‘brainwashing’. In the Clement Report Lefebvre’s treatment was described as such:
“If one had wanted to ‘brainwash’ Real Chartrand and bring him to the point where only acute psychosis or uncontrollable violence were possible, then one could hardly imagine a more efficient process than the one employed by Dr. Gilles Lefebvre.”Eloise Morin, Fired after scandal in ’72, Douglas psychiatrist attacked by patients’ group, The Gazette, June 3, 1987, Page A-6
But these are matters that took place in some cases over 50 years ago. We may never know the influence of Dr. Cameron and the Allen. Still, it’s hard not to conceive of some cross-pollination occurring between medical faculties. Both the Douglas and the Allen operated under the umbrella of their parent organization, McGill University. They were like the Bobbsey Twins of medicine. It’s hard to tell them apart.
How can I ever forget that Dr. Sleep / Gilles Lefebvre? Wasn’t he the guy in Real Chartrand case who was so unprofessional and had a relationship with his patient? The one who took his patient out to dinner and offered him a ring, wanted to have a relationship with his patient? And when the patient refused, he told him that his parole option was flushed down the toilet because he refused his proposal? Then he went to pharmacy with his patient and got him meds that really spiralled the patient out of control and caused a psychotic episode. And as a result, his patient with that psychotic episode went out to murder a police officer?
Seriously? I thought Dr. Sleep / Gilles Lefebvre was sent to exile in Morocco, which I assumed would be the end of his career after what he did. Holy cow! He was back and practicing at the Douglas Psychiatric Institute for the Insane? Ahem, this is insane and how fucked up can it get? Unbelievable… I’ll read the fascinating episode now, thanks for this episode!
Thank you again for listening, Loulou.
I have been following your series and never would have guessed how many nuts were running around quebec and probably ontario. I was 10 in 1975 in a small hamlet in southern ontario and honestly if i knew some of this stuff lol i would never have ventured out of my home! Absolutely enjoy your podcasts and speaking style. I listen on spreaker.
Thank you very much, Gabriella. Yes, I was thinking that this morning, even today I make sure every day that I stay out of the way of the ‘crime and punishment’ machine. Thanks for listening.
Maybe thats wat they been trying to hide… serial killers coming out of those institute and weird programs…
Exactly. Everything matters. I wouldn’t discount anything.
Interesting blog. Is it possible to tour the hopsital and see the tunels?