A Desperate Asylum: Crisis in a Canadian Psychiatric Hospital During Wartime


Anne Marie Creamer, PhD – Horizon Health Network, New Brunswick, Canada

Series: Mental Illnesses and Treatments
BISAC: MED039000; HIS006000
DOI: https://doi.org/10.52305/PHNO5165

In 1945, The Standard, a Montreal newspaper, published three shocking articles that reported stories of neglect, abuse and deplorable conditions at New Brunswick’s only psychiatric hospital. Within days the provincial government established a Royal Commission. This book traces the remarkable people, events and findings of the Commission. Allegations of wiretapping, missing medications, tangled relationships, clandestine nighttime treks through the hospital, a gang of predatory patients, an undercover reporter, conspiracies about government interference, a Jewish psychiatrist who fled Nazi Germany, covert links between nongovernmental agencies and the media, and a patient who seemed to orchestrate events were set against the backdrop of a hospital whose critically depleted staff were straining to provide care.

The establishment of the Royal Commission formalized a scrutiny of the hospital and its operations at that time, casting light on both the darker, hidden side of the institution and some of the bright, positive efforts that were being made to improve the lives of those with a mental illness. And now, all these years later, because of the Commission, there exists an extraordinarily detailed description of the day-to-day life in the hospital and the work of its attendants, physicians and nurses during the war.

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1. The Beginning of the Story

Chapter 2. The Provincial Hospital and Its History

Chapter 3. The Hospital During the War Years

Chapter 4. Ward 2 and Its Culture

Chapter 5. Timeline of Events

Chapter 6. The Advocates and Commissioners

Chapter 7. The Inquiry Proceedings

Chapter 8. Questionable Deaths and Charges of Abuse

Chapter 9. Other Problems at the Hospital

Chapter 10. Witnesses or Lack Thereof, and What to Believe

Chapter 11. Conspiracies

Chapter 12. Reactions of the Key Stakeholders

Chapter 13. Findings and Recommendations of the Commission

Chapter 14. Aftermath to the Report

Chapter 15. Themes and Surprising Revelations

Chapter 16. Epilogue

Appendix A. Exhibits for the Inquiry

Appendix B. Letter from Attendant Bannen Woods to The Standard [5, p. 117-118]

Appendix C. Telegram from Patients and Attendants to the Minister of Health [26, p. 188]

Appendix D. Introduction Letter to Lawyer Crankshaw from John Drummond [5, p. 168]

Appendix E. Letter from E. A. Lettney [sic] to Glen Gilbert, Editor of The Standard [5, p. 11]

Appendix F. Two Letters via Edgar Neal, Woodstock Town Council to Baxter [141, 152]

Appendix G. Recommendations of the Commission [4, p. 35- 37]

Author’s Biography



Author’s ORCID iD

Anne Marie Creamer – 0000-0002-3603-6502

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