Who could have foreseen that pumping serial killers, rapists and assorted sexual sadists full of LSD could go so terribly wrong?
After all these years, the Ontario government and two psychiatrists are being whacked by the courts for freaky deaky experiments on psychopaths at the old Oak Ridge max security psych facility in Penetanguishene.
The venerable booby hatch fell to the wreckers three years ago, replaced by the cosy confines of the Waypoint institution, a hotel for the, er, violently-troubled. Now, painting by similar legal numbers as the victims of residential schools, the guinea pigs of Penetang have won a class action lawsuit, and a big cash payoff is in the works, much of it courtesy Ontario taxpayers.
Over 17 years, starting in the late 1960s, Drs. Elliott Barker and Gary Maier ran a “therapeutic community” in Penetang that was as whacked-out as many of its inmates. LSD trips, “100 Day Hate-Ins” of patients jammed into tiny rooms, artificial wombs, and stretches in solitary were all part of the entertainment.
Resisters and gripers wound up in cells with a piece of untearable denim for a blanket, and a cement slab – a “Barker Bunk” — to sleep on.
Back then, journos swallowed whole Barker and Maier’s claims that they were running a medical marvel. Hacks from the Globe and Mail, Maclone’s, the Toronto Star, CBC and the NFB all did long, credulous pieces on Dr. Barkingmad’s work, marvelling as one at how he was on the verge of curing psychopathy.
None seemed to notice that the joint was a gulag, with inmates running violent ‘encounter groups’ and acting as strong-arms from the administration, while serial killers enjoyed the acid, straight from Sandoz’s labs.
Barker eventually departed for a lucrative career as an expert witness and to run an anti-day care lobbying group, leaving Maier to take over.
Finally, in 1983, guards in Penetang locked Maier out of the building and the Bill Davis government woke up and cleared out the hippies. By then, more than 1,200 patients had been through the system.
Last week’s decision by Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that the doctors and government breached their fiduciary duty to the inmates by running a torture chamber leaves some rather interesting plaintiffs who are about to cash in with residential school-level pay-outs. Among them:
* Terry Ghetti, found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1973 for raping and killing an elderly woman in her apartment. While being held in the Don Jail, Ghetti sucker-punched another inmate and killed him.
* Eldon Hardy, who had a long career of raping young boys from 1972 until 2009. Hardy would high tail it to a park or playground whenever he was out of jail or a psych hospital. In March 2010, Hardy walked away from the Royal Ottawa Hospital, where he was being assessed after another string of sex assaults, but was picked up at a Toronto airport, as he was about to flee the country.
* Chris Magee, a serial killer and rapist who travelled to south-western Ontario in a dead stock removal truck, raping and killing young women and was dubbed “The Mad Slasher”. In the early 1990s, Magee ran a video rental business in Oak Ridge.
* Doug McCaul, who strangled and stomped on Carol Lynn Millar until she was dead and then dumped her half-naked body in a leaf trough in Toronto’s Alexander Muir Park. He came back to the body three days later tried to dress her in his sister’s pantyhose. He gave some thought to raping the dead body, but jerked off on the pantyhose instead. After he was caught, he confessed to murdering Archie McDougall, a school custodian, for no apparent reason. He last made the news when he got a day pass from a psych hospital to practice lawn bowling.
* Russell Johnson, who killed at least seven women in the Kitchener-Guelph area in the 1970s after scaling balconies of apartment buildings. He specialized in making it look like the women died of natural causes.
* Leeford Miller, recently deported to Jamaica after spending years in psychiatric hospitals for murdering a woman who got in the way when he tried to kill his wife in 1977.
* Roger Pinet, who killed four members of his wife’s family in Yellowknife, in 1976. In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with Pinet’s argument that mentally ill offenders should be held in the least restrictive custody possible.
* Bruce Hamill, who murdered an elderly school caretaker in New Edinburgh in the early 1980s, was released a few years later, got a job as a security guard at the Ottawa courthouse in the late ‘80s and, with Peter Woodcock, a serial killer who preyed on children, raped and murdered a male patient on the grounds of the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital.
Don’t spend it all in one place, you crazy kids!