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The Old Royal Victoria Should Have A Memorial To Those Tortured On-Site, Officials Say

The recommendation comes amid allegations of unmarked Indigenous children's graves on the grounds.

MTL Blog, Staff Writer
​A birds-eye view of the old Royal Vic site covered in bright green roofing with Mont Royal on the left.

A birds-eye view of the old Royal Vic site covered in bright green roofing with Mont Royal on the left.

Courtesy of CNW Group and the Office de consultation publique de Montréal
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The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-855-242-3310, or visit their website to chat.

The abandoned old Royal Vic Hospital could see a revamp, following the approval of McGill University's redevelopment plans by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM). An OCPM report released on Tuesday endorsed the project that would turn the looming stone structures at the foot of Mont Royal into a research hub for sustainable development and public policy. But the consultative body also noted the site's troubled history with ties to illegal human experimentation and the abuse of Indigenous youth.

Hospital patients were subject to drugs, and "physical and psychological torture" without their consent as part of the MK-Ultra program researching mind control in the 1950s and '60s, reads one part of the report. Indigenous youth, dubbed "Duplessis orphans," were improperly diagnosed with mental illnesses so they could be checked into hospitals, like the Royal Vic, as part of a scheme to gain federal funding in the late 1940s and early '50s.

There are ongoing allegations from the Kahnawake community that the remains of those children are buried on the hospital grounds, near the Henry Lewis Morgan pool and the gardens of the Allan Memorial Institute. Indigenous stakeholders have continuously called for an immediate end to construction on the site.

A McGill University spokesperson said last November that the school would be open to working with Indigenous communities regarding possible unmarked graves, but the OCPM highlighted that redevelopment of the site could make finding them more difficult.

The report recommended that the university uphold its commitment, while also integrating "physical representation and presence of Indigenous people" on the new site in the form of a memorial to those harmed at the hospital.

Earlier this year, the Mohawk Mothers advocacy group filed a suit taking McGill to court to stop the new hospital project until an investigation of the grounds is completed. The Quebec Superior Court will hear that case later this month.

The old Royal Vic Hospital has been mostly vacant since 2015 when the McGill University Health Center relocated to the Glen site.

Zoning changes will need to be approved by Montreal City Council before the university can start demolition.

The OCPM has submitted its report to the city, suggesting that the densely wooded northern part of the site be integrated into Mont Royal Park, instead of being covered with an extension of the Women's Pavilion.

It also recommended provisions to better prioritize traffic on the site and to carry out eco-friendly management of waste snow, while maintaining the landscape and heritage of the buildings.

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