UNMARKED GRAVES HIDE A BRUTAL PAST
How extensive might the experimentation in Quebec foster care facilities have been? The case of a 63-year-old retired racehorse trainer, Sylvio Albert Day, provides insight.
Orphaned at birth, Day worked at hard labor outdoors as a teen, often under brutally cold conditions, and then toiled for years inside psychiatric institutions — a normal young man compelled to work in a savage world where, every day, the threat of straitjackets, injections with brain-damaging drugs, and even lobotomies loomed.
Day described one three-month period when he transported the bodies of 67 dead Orphans — boys and girls, young men and women — from operating and electric shock rooms at a Montreal institution to the basement. There, he washed the bodies — some as young as 5 — in preparation for sale to local universities.
"HE HAD NO BRAIN!"
St. Jean de Dieu was the site, but it could have been any of 19 or more Quebec institutions where such abuses are reported to have occurred.
Day told Freedom he witnessed the deadly effects of restraints, beatings, electroshock and lobotomies. He observed children and youths exploited as slave labor, the routine, massive use of mind-ravaging drugs and, quite possibly, the aftermath of experimental brain operations.
One day, for example, he was asked to remove a dead youth from an operating room. He transported the body to the morgue and took off the hospital robe, socks and cap.
"That's when I jumped!" he said. "He was lying there on the sink and when I took off his cap, he had no brain! I could see the hole."
Day washed the body as instructed and, a short while later, was summoned again to the operating room. Another Orphan lay dead.
This person had large holes drilled into his head.
Shaken, he was summoned yet again — this time to a cell where an Orphan had hung himself.
Day said that cadavers were sent from St. Jean de Dieu to the University of Montreal and McGill University, where body parts were removed. He was informed about the disposition of the bodies by a local embalmer, who warned him not to speak about their horrible condition.
The man made it clear to him, Day said, that "if I talked, I would have serious problems. And that's why I stayed quiet."
No ceremonies marked the deaths, with many children reportedly interred on the St. Jean de Dieu grounds in the pigsty cemetery described by Joseph Martin.
Day confirmed that the Orphans were placed in cardboard boxes and, in his words, "buried like dogs" in unmarked graves, one atop another.
Punished with Drugs
Day recalled complaining to a St. Jean de Dieu psychiatrist about working in the morgue, known among Orphans as "Dead People's Hall." The psychiatrist threatened Day with serious repercussions if he did not return to his grisly assignment.
Threatened with "pills strong enough to put down a horse" and confinement "in a secret operating cell" where he would be subjected to "one week of treatments," Day complied.
All told, Day said, he saw eight Orphans "with their heads cut wide open." Troubled about what he perceived as experimental brain operations, Day approached St. Jean de Dieu's Camille Laurin, an influential psychiatrist who later became a Quebec cabinet minister.
When Day complained to Laurin about the brain operations, the psychiatrist allegedly punished him by administering a powerful drug that rendered him senseless. Day said that he "fell unconscious and slept like a vegetable." He believes the drug was chlorpromazine.