Judge orders McGill to comply with deal on unmarked grave search at former hospital

MONTREAL — A Quebec judge has ordered McGill University to comply with a deal it reached with a group of Indigenous women that outlines the search for possible unmarked graves at a former Montreal hospital site.

The Mohawk Mothers had argued that McGill and the province’s infrastructure agency failed to properly involve the panel of archeologists appointed to oversee the search for graves at the site of a future downtown campus expansion.

The expert panel was a key element of a deal struck in April between the developers and the Indigenous women, who had sought to halt construction over fears it could desecrate human remains.

Superior Court Justice Gregory Moore rejected McGill’s argument that the panel’s mandate ended in July, and ordered the school and the infrastructure agency to abide by the panel’s recommendations on how the search should proceed.

However, he refused the Mohawk Mothers’ request to suspend excavation work at the former site of the Royal Victoria Hospital in his decision Monday, deeming the measure unnecessary.

Infamous mind-control experiments were held at the psychiatric institute affiliated with the hospital in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Mothers say that survivors of those treatments have suggested that patients could be buried on the site.

The group said in a statement that the developers had failed to respect several recommendations from the panel, including that data on ground-penetrating radar searches be shared and reviewed.

“Since McGill and the (infrastructure agency) fired the expert panel we had no way to keep track and trust the results of the investigation, which was now being controlled by the perpetrators of crimes against our children,” it wrote.

“The point in signing the settlement agreement was to allow the experts to do their job, and we were betrayed.”

McGill issued a statement in response to the ruling, saying it will study the decision and will have an update “in due course.”

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