Monday, March 31, 2014

UPDATE ON MY COLD WAR: Conversation with E. Jane Mundy

In 2002 when I began researching my childhood for the book that would become My Cold War, I had no inkling that I was a kid in the MKULTRA program, but I did have memories of some events that involved my family in around 1962 when my father went into the notorious Allan Memorial Institute.

In my mid twenties I wrote a story about my childhood and a "dream" I had at age four of being in an underground laboratory where children were tied down to conveyer belts being molested with cattle prods. This short story was published in a couple of Canadian anthologies in the 1980s.

In 2002, I started to meet people on the internet and, read stories and accounts of people who described exactly the same scene as part of their childhood as kids in the program called MKULTRA. I wrote to one of these survivors, Carol Rutz, who wrote back saying it sounded like I was in this program.

I was fifty years old, and it took me a year to say well, maybe it’s possible. This was after a year of reading thousands of pages of documents. I began to realize my own family had been closely connected to these institutions where experiments went on and also to some of the doctors. My father was a patient of Dr. Ewen Cameron and another psychiatrist, Dr. Peter Roper, who was a colleague and disciple of Cameron's "psychic driving" experiments which devastated so many lives. Unlike some patients Cameron de-patterned, my father was only in the Allan for six weeks, and was able to return to work for the next few months, although his memory was affected by the drugs and electroshock treatments and whatever else he received - his records are incomplete. He had turned sixty years old that year and the following year he took early retirement.

The same year my mother got ill with severe arthritis and she was constantly going for treatment to the same hospital. Both my parents became guinea pigs that year.

As I found out in 2004, my father had been in military intelligence with the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1941 he was stationed in Prince Rupert on the northern coast of British Columbia. In 1943, he came to Montreal and was an Air Force intelligence officer during the war when Nazis were said to be operating in Quebec. After the war became a High School teacher. Former military were given preference in hiring after the war, and it appears there were many ex-military teachers in the English Protestant high schools. And being ex-military, he was also expected to volunteer in peacetime projects, like ARTICHOKE and MKULTRA. This also included us: as his children, and also as twins, we were in line to be placed in these secret experiments.

The Air Force was very involved in secret mind control research, and there was a lot of that going on in Montreal during the Cold War era. Dr. Ewen Cameron was in the American Air Force and so were a number of his colleagues who also happened to be 33rd degree Masons. So it was a secretive men's club and many of the psychiatrists who experimented on Canadians were British trained and came to McGill from Edinburgh and the United Kingdom where eugenics originated. They would get their eugenics training in the UK and many were hired by McGill University in Montreal. McGill has always been famous for attracting military contracts, and some needed human volunteers. One group of potential guinea pigs was children of the military, another was Native Aboriginal children, and another, a large group, was Quebec orphans.

They also seem to have had special programs for what were called “gifted” kids – whose parents were happy to be told their child has tested high on the IQ test, or was musically or artistically talented. There were privileges attached to being "gifted" and also to being a child of the military rather than to be, say, a child from a native reserve or an orphan. Children in Canada were disappearing into experiments designed by the military to produce a new generation of mind-controlled people who would help create a New World Order. If this sounds hard to believe,that's because the British eugenicists created a system designed to hide the evidence of what they were up to after the war in Canada. That’s what I found, when I began trying to look into and write about what happened to my family in the Kafka-esque landscape of the Cold War in North America.

By 2004 I had a whole book written, which I called My Cold War, and I started looking for someone to publish it. I thought, it’s a powerful story, and I had told it pretty well, and with all the information that was coming out on the internet, really vast quantities of documents and testimony and proof, much of it obtained under the American Freedom of Information Act, and at conferences where victims and therapists and people doing research into the history of mind control were coming together and sharing really fascinating new information – I was convinced my story was part of this big puzzle and would find an audience. All I had to do was send it out to publishers.

What came back was beyond rejection -- it was Absolute Denial. And it was also automatic. Publishers would be interested, and then they would refuse to read it. Or they wouldn’t respond at all. It was as if I had handed them a hot potato, or something they were scared of. Almost as if there was a policy somewhere that said “Don’t talk about this” – so they would not even tell me if they had read it or not. My former publisher took me off his mailing list so I would not attend any launches or events. It was as if, by writing this book, I had crossed a line and done something that was secretly forbidden.

Everywhere I went, I seemed to bump into people whose personal experience confirmed my own story. Everyone had a family member, someone close to them who had been harmed or destroyed by Dr. Cameron. Everyone knew a family who had lost a promising child to LSD, and many knew of experiments at McGill involving students, some of whom had suffered life-long mental health issues as a result. It seemed the streets of Montreal were absolutely filled with people who were victims of this program. And yet it was taboo to talk about it, or investigate it. The wife of a Arts Council director remembered several writers who had approached her husband with proposals for books on Nazi doctors operating in Quebec, only to be turned down.

For a while I was obsessed with the "Nazi" side of the story – how Nazi doctors had come to North America through Operation Paperclip. Now I believe the main mover in setting up this secret eugenics program in Canada was British intelligence. For example, the National Film Board had been turning out pro-British war propaganda in the 1940s. In the early 1950s it floundered for a while, and there was a power struggle between the military people left over from wartime and a new group that favoured young directors to document social change in Canada. Some of this “social change” was actually social engineering.

The NFB set up new programs like “Challenge for Change” and produced many social documentaries during those years and quite a few experimental films like The Ernie Game and Goin’ Down the Road and Flowers on a One-Way Street and Angel and Christopher’s Movie Matinee that were about alienated youth and the new drug culture. Arthur Lipsett made documentary and animated films. When I looked at these films a while back I could see he had to have been aware of the MKULTRA program, which was at its height when he was producing his best films. Lipsett, who was schizophrenic, was employed by the NFB and became almost a cult figure in his own lifetime. He brilliantly used collage and in-camera editing to layer all kinds of information into his films. Back in the 1960s and 70s the NFB seems to have been very interested in experimenting with LSD, and another award-winning animator, Ryan Larkin, was known to take large quantities of it in producing ground-breaking animation films like Walking.

In Montreal when I was young there always were many mental patients walking the streets who were indistinguishable from artists. There was a small English poetry scene in downtown Montreal that sprang up in the 1950s when Dr. Cameron was electro-shocking and drugging literally thousands of people at the Allan Memorial. Dr. Cameron supported the arts, I suspect because as a psychiatrist he found it gave him access to people's souls. He and his colleagues would approach young artists and offer them a chance to be in his LSD experiments at McGill. He encouraged patients to write poetry. Some, like Leonard Cohen, went on to have careers as poets and writers.

Several poets in the Anglo poetry scene that started to blossom in the 1970s, had been in the Allan Memorial as children -- for example, Artie Gold. Coincidentally, Artie Gold and Ryan Larkin both died on Valentine's Day, 2007. Poetry seems to come naturally to some schizophrenics, and having ex-patients write poetry and read it in public could be way of keeping track of how the experimental subjects were faring, especially when Cameron's program was shut down after 1963. We’re talking 10,000 electroshock sessions per year on patients at McGill hospitals alone. Just massive amounts of experimental drugs and procedures being tested on unsuspecting people, including children, who ended up in Cameron’s “care.”

In Montreal we had this downtown population of marginal individuals who came together in a cultural scene in the 1980s. These traumatized children needed somewhere to go so many found their way into artistic careers where it was okay to be a little strange. And it’s interesting that the NFB has made documentaries about a few of them, such as Phil Tetrault and Ryan Larkin and Arthur Lipsett, who in my opinion show all the signs of having been in MKULTRA as kids.

This whole process has been quite strange because on one hand the city I grew up in is absolutely littered with relics of that terrible period when Montrealers were being used as guinea pigs for the CIA. And then on the other hand, there is what appears to have been a massive effort to destroy evidence and lie about all this, so you have a population of victims who have amnesia for what happened to them. It’s a real tragedy.

I could give lots of examples of how that worked. McGill hired a law firm to help them hide records of LSD experiments on children. Reportedly many of these files were not destroyed, just hidden in the catacombs under McGill. I met a former male nurse who, along with other orderlies and staff, worked for months in 1978 tossing patient records into the dumpsters behind the Royal Victoria Hospital, after the world found out about McGill's role in secret mind control research on unwitting people. I have a friend who worked with Dr. Jonathan Meakins II (there have been three Dr. Jonathan Meakins in medicine at McGill – they are a sort of dynasty) who was in charge of managing all those records, sanitizing them so that people who were harmed by all these experiments could not take legal action.

When I was trying to get my late father’s records from the Royal Victoria Hospital, I was given an amazing runaround and told I had no right to those records, and it was only by a kind of miraculous accident that I found a Chinese replacement secretary who was very helpful and actually located my father’s file – which had been mostly emptied, but there was one page in it that identified him as a Cameron patient.

Both English newspapers, the Gazette and Montreal Star, were major supporters of Dr. Cameron’s CIA research and going through their files on the Allan Memorial is very enlightening. The Star no longer exists, but its owners made financial donations to these eugenics programs at McGill. The Gazette also shares a law firm with McGill which is convenient when the goal is to conceal decades of criminal research.

So researching this terrible past, finding proof, has not been easy. Once you start finding proof, and collecting stories from survivors, you find people with the power to help, such as publishers, are afraid to talk to you. Some seem to have been put in their positions as gatekeepers, and an astonishing number of Canadian editors and publishers are from military backgrounds. Living in Montreal all my life, I never realized this until I wrote My Cold War. Montreal has a very controlled writing and publishing scene.

A few years ago, the Montreal law firm of Stein and Stein in Montreal managed to win a large settlement for Cameron patients. This legal victory made front-page news in the UK but in Montreal, where there were so many victims who could qualify for compensation, the Gazette didn’t bother to print the story at all. After I complained, they finally ran it, ten days late, but they made sure to bury it in the middle of the paper over a single column so no one would see it.

That’s how these very shocking crimes go on being hidden. I found myself marginalized when I started investigating and talking about that whole era of recent Montreal history, because the important people who collaborated operate under a cloak of respectability. The doctors and scientists who were doing these things to children are still considered heroes of medicine and are in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

As soon as I started researching my past I not only began running into people who had been part of this program, but I also met a group of intuitives who offered to help me locate some “missing children.” At first I was not even aware that I needed to go looking for these missing children. The way this happened was, well, a bit strange. It almost made me believe in angels, because without really looking I just I began running into clairvoyants who told me about souls of children who had been trapped between worlds when they died. Another way to say this is, there were children who were in the spiritual world and unable to move on because they had an important message for the living. These psychics and healers I was meeting demonstrated an ability to communicate with these lost children who are no longer alive, but can make their presence felt.

There was a medical intuitive running a centre for alternative healing at Queen Elizabeth Hospital who had communicated with these children who and they were telling her they needed help. For some reason, though, she was reluctant to get involved in their “case.” A short time later, in November of 2003 I met a trance medium called Harley Monte who told me I would write a book about these missing children. He introduced me to a group of about ten of his students who all had powerful intuitive abilities. On the surface these were regular people with jobs, families, etc., and they volunteered to help me by channelling information from the time period when Dr. Cameron was running his top secret “children’s program” which was at its peak in 1960. They started out at our first meeting by traveling back to a children’s party at the Allan that my twin brother and I attended in 1956, at age five. They also gathered information from a hidden laboratory where orphans were kept in a military experiment, similar to the kind of experiment we hear about today, to develop super-soldiers. We collected disturbing details of child experiments involving sensory isolation, extreme temperatures, combat situation, photographic memory, ESP, sexual abuse, animal abuse – that were happening at McGill in about 1960.

Had I not already been reading and doing research for over a year, reading thousands of pages of testimony on secret mind control projects all over North America and including in Montreal, I would not have believed or understood most of what started coming through these amazing people who were accurately giving me details, including names, dates, places that jived exactly with survivor accounts, and despite the fact they had never even heard of this program. They were blank slates. For example, one of the channellers began describing a "Doctor Lehmann". She repeated his name, while picking up information about about him. Heinz Lehmann was the “father of Largactil” which he used to treat schizophrenia at the Douglas Psychiatric Hospital in Montreal and also at the Allan Memorial during those years. She described him as cold and heartless, treating children like inanimate objects.

At one session we contacted Sidney Gottlieb, who was the head of Chemical Services for the CIA MKULTRA project based in Washington D.C. We found him on one of the “lowers levels of the white light” where he is was being re-educated. This level is a little like Purgatory but there is compassion there even for perpetrators. He or one of his guides told us he had other incarnations where he had worked for powerful rulers, and his job had been to poison their enemies. So in his recent lifetime, Sid Gottlieb, – which was not his real name – his real name was Josef Schneider and during the war he had worked as a chemist for the Nazis, and after the war he came to America under Operation Paperclip and was given a new, Jewish identity and speech therapy to alter his accent – had worked for the CIA and was the chemistry genius behind their plan to poison foreign leaders like Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro.

As I said, the psychics were unaware of all this background, but they were able to connect with entities or souls on the astral plane. Gottlieb about being he had been blamed for the MKULTRA program, but when in fact there were many people who did much worse things and escaped prosecution in the 1970s when it began to be exposed. He claimed to have been blackmailed. These secret projects, like the intelligence organizations that run them, appear to operate by threats and blackmail.

I met these psychics at a time when I was encountering so much denial when I tried to talk about my research in the “real world.” It seemed miraculous that they put themselves at my disposal in the way they did. They said “We will help you because this story is so important, people need to know what happened to these children.”

In the course of the two or three years that I regularly met with "Harley’s Angels" we also spoke with several children who had lived in basement of the Allan Memorial. They told us their names, and Harley even read some of their files. I believe all of them died in those experiments and are buried in unmarked graves behind the hospital which is on Mount Royal in downtown Montreal. One of them, Isabel Flora Williams, was 16 years old in 1960. We found her strapped in a chair with electrodes attached to her head. She was kept in that chair in the basement literally for years, often in a state of semi-starvation. There is real evidence she actually existed: she appears in a drawing by MKULTRA survivor and author Carol Rutz, who remembers being taken to the Allan as a child in 1960. Later I went down to the City of Montreal Archives and found her a record for an Isabel Flora Williams, born in 1944 and had died in September 1963, which fits exactly with the dates she gave us in our channelling session in 2004 which I taped. So she died around the time Dr. Cameron’s behavioural lab was being shut down. I am guessing she was terminated along with other children who managed to survive. I think in fact much of the project, including some of the psychiatrists, later moved from Montreal to southern Ontario.

There were Nazi doctors involved in this program, but most of the researchers were English and Scottish. A number of these men were trained at Maudsley Hospital and the University of Edinburgh, and many (like Eric Wittkauer, who came to work at the Allan in 1951, about a week before I was born) were involved with the Tavistock Institute. Tavistock had and still has an enormous influence in the English speaking world and was the birthplace of MKULTRA mind control and really needs to be studied and understood because it has been enormously influential. McGill was always friendly to eugenics and Sir William Osler – a medical library there is named after him – was a eugenicist. It’s part of the history of English Montreal but very few people are interested in exposing it – that would be like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs and opening Pandora’s Box, in a single stroke.

It’s all about power, powerful men and their scientific and medical careers, the military and McGill University. McGill recently put up a statue to honour George Merck from Merck-Frost who was put in charge of Canada’s enormous and very secretive chemical and biological weapons program, during and after the Second World War. That program needed lots of guinea pigs and Canada had few laws to protect its population from medical experimentation. They tried to get soldiers to volunteer to test lethal chemicals like botulism toxin. They set up laboratories on military bases in places like Kingston, Ontario and also in remote areas of western Canada, and they had ways of acquiring subjects. It was around this time that orphans were targeted for medical experiments, and many of these children disappeared during the MKULTRA years from 1953-1964.

I looked at who attended the Quebec Conference in 1943 and 1944 as the war was ending. Maurice DuPlessis was re-elected as Premier of Quebec and was invited to the conference which was in part about “unconventional weapons” which would be needed against Russia in the post-war period. Churchill, Roosevelt and MacKenzie King were at that conference, already laying out a strategy for the Cold War. Nuclear weapons were about to be used on Japan, but they also were developing chemical and biological weapons – just a little downriver from Quebec City was Grosse Ile, where they were testing anthrax weapons. And Duplessis was in a position to offer the Allies two things; iron ore in the north, and thousands of war orphans, both of which would be very valuable to the continuing war effort.

When you have hindsight into these secret programs – and much of that hindsight comes from victims’ accounts of being in them which are very hard to dismiss – you can literally roll back the tape and watch the plan unfold from its beginnings during and after the Second World War. There is so much research that needs to be done, and I have only scratched the surface, but since very few people seem to know about these programs, there was often a lot of it left lying out where you can find it.

I don’t have real archives that I can pass onto others. I began my writing career in poetry and fiction, and I tend to work intuitively. I am a story teller, not an academic, although my B.A. is in History.

If I was a professional researcher I would devote my life to finding and photocopying the records, but in the meantime, I will just keep telling my story. There should be a hundred of researchers with skills. I know intuitively if you go and look, you will find plenty, even though so many of the records and documents have been hidden. Chances are they are still lying in the catacombs under McGill.

It has been a decade since I wrote My Cold War. In those days I lost quite a few friends to my obsession with this period of our lives. Their line of argument was, if this really happened, how come it’s not on TV or in the newspapers? It was truly a strange and exciting time in my life, as I was looking into files and finding all sorts of names shocking thingsin these files. It was obvious there was a network of powerful people who had known about the experiments on children all along. I had even worked for some of these people, who included the owners and publishers of the Montreal Gazette. But it went beyond these few people, who seemed to be well informed about these secrets,that influential group to include others in what we think of as the independent or alternative publishing scene, who just “followed orders.” So one editor said flat out, “This book can never be published in Canada.” Another small press editor I sent the manuscript to told a friend of mine:

“If Ann publishes this book they will swoop down and lock her up.” He actually seemed afraid to speak to me about it. So in the end I decided to self-publish My Cold War. In 2005 I brought out the first edition and then I continued revising it. In 2007, I attempted to enter it in a competition, and the reaction from my writers’ association was bizarre. They set up an “ethics committee” to read my book to see if it was eligible. At the same time they hired someone to watch me and inform on me.

It was really hilarious. A strange man in a hat watched me working in the public library and followed me outside and introduced himself. As soon as he took off his hat, I recognized him as someone I knew. That threw him off a bit. He bombarded me with phone calls for a week until I agreed to meet him, and over coffee he started interrogating me and seemed to be memorizing my answers. He was about 60 with tardive dyskinesia from the anti-psychotics he had been taking since his breakdown in 1984. I felt almost sorry for him - he seemed to be some kind of informer but not a very good one so I started asking him about his life. He was a child of the military with all the characteristics of having been traumatized and groomed for a career in intelligence. For a while he had been a diplomat but in the mid-80s he suffered a psychotic breakdown and had never been able to rebuild his career after that. He mentioned he knew many important people at McGill who happened to be "pedophiles" -- that's how he described these friends of his. He also told me about his childhood growing up among the Canadian elite, and his abusive military dad who sent him to Eton in England. As a child he often played the Molson mansion in a small village near Riviere du Loup -- just down the road from the Allan family mansion.

Without intending to, he confirmed many things I already knew about children in the MKULTRA, and implicated the same people I had been reading about. He seemed to have no clue as to why I was so interested.

I have to say, this process of finding out about my own childhood has had many surreal moments.

In 2008 McGill University set up a committee to study its own Cold War history, headed by a woman who works for McGill and writes books for pharmaceutical companies. So McGill is investigating its own secret history -- that’s also surreal. The simple, shocking fact is in the 1950’s Montreal was a "medical mecca" because Quebec and Canada permitted secret human experimentation enabling unscrupulous people to build fantastic careers on child abuse and murder.

These secrets absolutely must reach the public. Our world is in a lot of danger because of these secret programs that have really succeeded in erasing our collective memory. Canadians live in amnesia, with little or no awareness of crimes against humanity that have happened right here and in our lifetime.


(E. Jane Mundy is a photographer and researcher who has documented child abuse, especially on Canadian native reserves and residential schools. Her website is at

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vive La Gazette Libre

A long time ago, for what now seems like a very brief period, I was a freelancer for the Montreal Gazette. I wrote book reviews and the odd article, mostly on cultural topics. I interviewed Irving Layton on his 80th birthday, and Mavis Gallant when she was 70 and came to Montreal to launch a new book. These were some of the high points.

I left the Gazette under a cloud. I could drag out the dreary details, and weave them into a plot, but I’ll stick to the basics. For six months I had a weekly column, and wrote about books. I got on well with the Books Editor, who was planning an expanded Books and Art section, and asked me to become a regular contributor. One day in January 1994, he invited me out to lunch. I imagined this was to discuss the new section. Instead, he told me he had received an ultimatum from upstairs — meaning the Editor in chief and publisher.

The message from the boss was: stop using me as a freelancer, or just forget the expanded section. He was upset, and wanted to hear my side. I didn’t have a side. I couldn’t begin to imagine how I had become the single biggest obstacle to getting his project approved. He asked if I had some long-term feud going on and named the managing editor. I had never even met her. “Well, she certainly seems to know you.”

Our Peking Duck had arrived, and we had to roll up those little crepes. That gave me something to do while I pondered what to say. Something about me must have ticked off the editors, but what? Why would someone as uninvolved in politics as I was, who had almost no known enemies, become a focal point of so much aggression? In a way, I was relieved. I knew I should never have started writing for the Gazette in the first place. I didn’t belong there. For the 3 or 4 years I’d freelanced on and off, I’d carefully kept my contributions as anodyne as possible. I’d gone out of my way not to reveal how much I despised that paper, which I never read if I could avoid it.

I certainly wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Several times, I’d been stopped in the street by Montrealers who recognized me from my photo and thanked me for writing about things they actually cared about. For a while, I’d even imagined I might settle in and start reaching out to a younger audience. Here was my comeuppance for entertaining such a silly notion.

Of course I would miss the income, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise — just the push I needed! I didn’t tell my editor that, though. I told him I was sorry, and how could I respond to critics I’d never met in person? He seemed dissatisfied but we left it at that. Over the next few months, he handed me rare assignments. In the fall, he had me review Robertson Davies’ unbelievably tedious, incoherent last novel, THE CUNNING MAN. I no longer cared if I offended the people upstairs. I was shocked that such a mediocre book had even been published, let alone become a best-seller in Toronto. I called it “a dim portrait of the Canadian ruling class in all its tacky self-complacency.”

The publisher of McClelland and Stewart wrote an enraged letter, almost as long as my review, which the Gazette published over three columns. It accused me of being a Marxist because I’d used the phrase “ruling class.” A little firestorm broke out at the Gazette, but that week I happened to be in Louisiana at a Rolling Stones’ concert. I arrived home to messages from my editor begging me to respond and defend myself. He said that people around the paper had been celebrating all week. Another of those odd moments when I wondered what kind of outfit I had been working for.

In fact, the publisher’s list of accusations were mostly baseless, and easy to refute. I wrote a page-long reply, which appeared the following week in the Letters section of the Gazette. Some editor had reduced it to four lines, adding a sentence of their own which (a) was false, and (b) contradicted the other three lines – making me appear to be a total idiot. I phoned to complain, but no one ever called back.

I was angry and shaken, but not surprised. A couple of years earlier, the Gazette had done the same thing to a friend of mine: misquoted him wildly in a way that ended up damaging his career. They’d also refused to return his calls — it was obviously a pattern. He’d ended up leaving Montreal, a city he loved, out of disgust at their monopoly, and lived in Europe, where he won a major award for his photography before moving to New York.

I felt I had no one to blame but myself for not cutting all ties with that faceless gang downtown. I pulled myself together, and got on with my life. No point arguing with a gorilla, especially the kind that ran the Gazette. It seemed very simple and obvious. At the time.

I never wrote for them again. Instead I eked out a small freelance income writing for local weekly entertainment papers, often dipping into my savings to survive. After those ran out, I taught creative writing workshops, was a writer in residence at a college in British Columbia, spent some time in other countries trying to figure out what to do next. I was still relatively young, more interested in forward motion than gathering hindsight.


Back in 1990, when I was new to freelancing for the Gazette, I’d been invited to what I thought was a dinner party at the home of a colleague. It turned out to be a meeting of a cabal. When I realized this, and also – shocking to me at the time — that the people at this meeting (including my editor) were completely serious about forming a secretive club to further their careers in journalism, I stood up, thanked them all, and walked out. Needless to say, they never invited me to dinner again. Which was fine by me because in my mind, they were a pathetic, deluded bunch of losers and bores. The next best thing to zombies. I had no interest in wasting my life and talent in such company. The fact is, though, for the next twenty years most of them steadily advanced in their careers, while I became roadkill in their rear-view mirror.

Even back then, I was naively grateful for the freedom that came with so-called failure. Free to indulge my fantasies, pursue my eccentric obsessions, I got used to hitting walls, bouncing off them, and running onward to the next adventure. It became my trademark pattern, and considering the alternatives, I have few regrets.

Having distanced myself by rejection from the increasingly controlled world of print journalism, I was able to watch its death throes as one newspaper chain swallowed another. In 1996, I helped launch a class action suit against the Gazette and its parent company, Southam Inc., later bought by Hollinger, later absorbed by CanWest which collapsed in 2009 and filed for bankruptcy protection. Our lawsuit was about electronic rights for freelancers, and like other similar class actions, a possible way to define the future of journalism in the age of the internet.

I’ve spent the past two decades living like a flea on the back of a dying animal. Over time, prospects for freelance writers have grown much bleaker, to the point that independent journalism has almost disappeared as a profession, a casualty of corporate concentration and the proliferation of free information on the web.

The cabal people — those who attended that meeting, and others like them — are still around. Perhaps some now feel they’re hanging on by their fingernails, but most have acquired real estate and middle class lifestyles. As an aging road warrior who no longer can afford my own apartment and live from contract to contract, I still prefer my way of life to theirs. I’m free to blow with the wind. Whereas some of them seem to be staring into the abyss these days.

I sense their desperation, although I can’t help noticing how well-off they are, compared to me. Then again, when you’ve sold your soul once, it gets easier to keep on doing it. Especially in these “uncertain times.”


Something else has been going on. Something I could not have imagined, if I hadn’t been watching it develop over decades. Maybe it’s nothing new. Maybe in the past I stupidly ignored the background warnings.

Those I call the “cabal people” have not scattered, or given up. If anything, they’ve pulled together under a new, more secretive cover. They now control my writers’ association. In a way, this makes sense, I suppose: that they would move out into the community, take on new protective colouring — especially now that newspaper jobs are practically non-existent.

These people never seem to start out at the bottom of any organization — but move directly onto the executive, bringing their habits of secrecy and closed-circuit networking along with them. These are people of whom it can be said, “Everything they do will succeed.” In place of ideas or charisma, they have organizational savvy. They sit at meetings, engulfed in an aura of eminence grise. Adept at gathering in grant money, they also determine policy, and most of what they do is behind closed doors. Once a year, they get up at the AGM, present their financial statements, and then withdraw into their chambers to go on running the association in secrecy. Like some mysterious, private club. They don’t see it that way, of course. But all questions and other incursions into their territory are carefully rebuffed while everything they touch runs very, very smoothly.

People will say, that’s how it is. That’s just how organizations work. Who am I to disagree? Except I’ve been observing that there is more going on than mere rule by a clever, able oligarchy. If that were all, the obvious solution would be “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

These former journalists, who I might have considered colleagues in the past, appear to me to have switched professions. They are no longer employed as freelance writers, although some still write articles and books, and get them published. I’m not sure who reads these books and articles. As far as I know, there’s not much of an audience out there for print anymore. And the subjects seem carefully chosen to be inoffensive.

What these writers seem to be involved in, these days, is much closer to surveillance. Since the internet’s viral invasion of every area of our lives, spying has become a universal human function. We are all spies nowadays, and most of us don’t even get paid for it.


There’s another insight I’ve gleaned from all this. I used to assume the people in power were somehow out to get me. But now I realize it’s not me, but “people like me.” We are in the process of being removed, in ways that make it hard to see what is going on.

When I lost my “job” as a freelancer, at first I took it personally even though I knew I was just one of many casualties of a much larger phenomenon: consolidation and globalization of the media. This geopolitical trend entailed liquidation of undesirable elements in order to clear the way for our replacements. A new, alien race of journalists displaced the old guard that had included left wingers, sixties types, people who believed in certain values that stood in the way of total control by faceless strangers. Social activists, rebels, and also indefinable creative types – and the list goes on. It also includes most of the locals, those who had grown up in the city and knew its recent history as a newcomer never can.

As one media giant swallowed another, there were fewer and fewer places left for freelancers. Anyone who didn’t sign up for the secret agenda was on the hit list. And suddenly career advancement depended on being the sort of sociopath who would do anything to get ahead.

First came a whole new climate of extreme censorship. Since writers have sensitive antennae and adapt quickly to changing signals, they soon started practicing self-censorship. Later, they even became “self-policing.”

My writers’ association, which used to be a loose assortment of varied individuals with literary aspirations and abilities, now runs like any corporation. It draws on a network of people, some innocent newcomers, others shadowy lifers. They operate very smoothly. They have 600 members, 5 of whom actually attend the AGM. It’s almost impossible to meet the other 595 – who support the association with their membership fees, sign up for workshops, receive the newsletter, etc. Like any group of shareholders.

This is convenient for the people who took it over, some years back, and decided this was the way to secure grant money. But it’s not so interesting for anyone raised in a world where, sometimes, writers got together in organizations to express their views on important subjects – lend their weight to political causes – and generally kick up a fuss. Which is what, I always thought, a writer’s role was in this world.

But apparently not.

We have writers’ associations because there are so few other places for them to be. Writers are annoying, as is free speech. One solution is to gather them into organizations, and keep them busy taking workshops, attending readings, etc. – so they’re less likely to notice that all the writing jobs have been taken by company people. Without anyone noticing.

Because, really, nothing succeeds like success. And when you function inside a secretive network, your rise to the top is often inevitable, like the continuous forward motion of a locomotive.

Hello, Brave New World…


I used to think certain people were just more organized, assertive, and professional — that’s why they got the positions working for the corporations I despised. But now I subscribe to the theory that they are chosen, less for their abilities, than their loyalties. They slide into positions because they already work for the “Company.”

But which company is it? It would be tempting to think “the CIA.” Some of these people do act just like operatives. Most are simply ambitious sociopaths, while others are probably sincerely naive, or just useful idiots. Like any collection of eager beavers, they come in all shades: liberal, conservative, even radical. Something unites them, though. They don’t come from “here.” They are not “one of us.” They came from outside, and moved up a ladder that might as well have been invisible. I couldn’t see it. I stayed at the bottom, and when I climbed, it was only a couple of rungs before I was called to a meeting of the insiders – at least they invited me, once. And once I’d listened and looked, I knew I could never live with myself if I didn’t get up and leave.

But who was the man upstairs, on whose behalf they had called this meeting? That’s what I couldn’t see, back then.

Fifteen years later, it’s become a lot clearer. At the top, in those days. were people like the editor-publisher of the Gazette, whose own ascent to prominence had been swift and inevitable. Starting out as a cub reporter for a small regional paper owned by the young Conrad Black, he’d risen in five years to become Editor-in-chief and Publisher of the Globe and Mail. Quite an achievement! How did he do it? Sheer talent and grit, I guess. Not to mention the Brewster family’s long-standing connections to the CIA and US military.

Norm Brewster’s dad, Lorne, is mentioned in certain CIA files in the MKULTRA archive in Washington, along with the then-chancellor of McGill University, as part of a long list of “friends of McGill University.” It might seem odd that McGill had so many friends in New York City, during the years it harboured a notorious secret program that used kidnapped children from Quebec orphanages and native reserves .as guinea pigs for the military. That’s a topic for another day, another blog. Also, Norm Brewster’s wife, Pamela happens to be related to a US army General and a Senator — something I learned by visiting her Facebook page and looking at her Thanksgiving photos.

So what’s a family like this doing, running Canadian media? It’s certainly not Norm’s wide-ranging intellect. It might be his secret society connections, though. I guess some people are bred to power.

I once watched him chair a panel discussion, in which he introduced the first speaker with a series of Masonic hand signals, and suddenly a bright rainbow aura, the intensity of luminous car paint, appeared to surround the woman’s body, and continued pulsating through her entire talk. I thought I must be hallucinating. All around me, the sparse audience appeared to slumber in a deep trance. After a while, her aura settled down and became a brilliant duo-tone purple and green.

That was back in 2003, when I had just begun to wake up to my own past. The panel discussion was on The History of the Scots in Montreal.

It was the first time I had laid eyes on Brewster, the editor who ten years earlier had ended my career as a freelancer at Montreal’s only English-language newspaper. Thin, bald, pale to the point of translucence, he seemed like a nondescript twin of Mr. Burns , the evil nuclear plant owner on The Simpsons.

The hand gesture he repeated three times in his introduction – bringing fingertips together to form a pyramid — was also one frequently used by Mr. Burns in Simpsons’ episodes. I turned to the man sitting next to me – whom I also just happened to know – and repeated the gesture while whispering in his ear: “That’s a Masonic signal!” He whispered back, “How do you know?” Coincidentally, I’d just been reading about Masonic hand signals on the internet. I knew this represented a calling together of the energies.

The speaker herself was quite frog-like, a Scottish historian from Glasgow. My ancestors also came from there. When her aura lit up like a Christmas tree, I stole a quick look around the room to see if others were reacting to these subtle fireworks. I saw only bored, pained-looking faces.

Maybe my mimicking this gesture had gained me entrance into some secret ritual. While she droned on, I doodled my thoughts. Sitting on my right was a woman in a blue suit whose eyes were on my notebook. When I wrote “The speaker has a rainbow aura” I noticed she leaned in closer and squinted to read it.

After the panel discussion was over, she turned to me and said “Are you Ann Diamond?”

This was Pamela Brewster, wife of Norm, who was chairing the panel that day in her place. She asked me what I was writing about these days.

Before I could answer, she mentioned a short story of mine she had read years ago. It opened with a scene from my childhood, when my twin brother and I played on an oriental carpet in our living room, which was also the scene of a dream I had at age five – of my mother being bitten by a poisonous snake.

Pam remembered that scene in detail. I certainly found that strange. Only the day before, I’d decided to use that passage as the opening for a new book about my family in the Cold War. And the previous week, I’d spent several hours at the Gazette library, looking through their old clippings about the Allan Memorial Institute, the notorious Montreal psychiatric hospital where CIA-funded experiments were carried out on unwitting patients – including my father, who spent six weeks there in 1962. I’d also taken a walk over to the Montreal Neurological Institute, where my father had been sent for more tests, and noticed the plaque on the wall honouring the Brewster family’s generous donations to neurological research.

Looking into Pam Brewster’s icy blue eyes, fixed on me with great attention, I had the strangest feeling she somehow already knew that, too, and also guessed what I was writing about.

It made me uncomfortable to be speaking to her, now. Or rather, listening to her go on on about how, years ago, she’d attended a performance I had written and presented in the Fringe Festival. I hadn’t known her back then, or known she was my fan...

For more on the strange, Luciferian world of Canadian media, see "The Wednesday Night Club" (below)