Fonds F43 - J. Donald Atcheson fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

J. Donald Atcheson fonds

General material designation

Parallel title

Other title information

Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

Level of description


Reference code

CA ON00008 F43

Edition area

Edition statement

Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • [ca. 1913]-Mar. 1990, predominant 1940-1990 (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

1.3 m of textual records (147 files) 1 drawing : sketch, pencil ; 22 X 28 cm 3 maps : reproductions, one with ms annotations ; 86.6 X 56.1 cm or smaller 9 photographs : b&w and col. ; 22 X 28 cm or smaller

Publisher's series area

Title proper of publisher's series

Parallel titles of publisher's series

Other title information of publisher's series

Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series

Numbering within publisher's series

Note on publisher's series

Archival description area

Name of creator

Biographical history

J. Donald Atcheson, most often known as Don Atcheson, was born on 27 July 1917 in London, Ontario. While a medical student at the University of Western Ontario in the 1930s, he was inspired by Professor George Stevenson to pursue psychiatry as a career. He lived at the London Asylum during is school years in exchange for minor services rendered during evening hours. He attained his medical degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1941. After interning at Hamilton General Hospital in 1941-1942, he joined the Navy, holding the position of Surgeon Lieutenant Commander on board a frigate that was assigned to support convoys in the North Atlantic. Dr. Atcheson was subsequently posted to a naval hospital in Newfoundland where he met and was tutored by a Navy psychiatrist, Commander Marvin Wellman. This post was Dr. Atcheson’s first psychiatric residency. Dr. Atcheson followed Wellman’s recommendation that he go to the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal for further instruction and was trained there by Dr. Ewen Cameron. After a short tenure at this institution as its Registrar, Dr. Atcheson was posted to Halifax, arriving there on the day after the riot on D-day. This was the beginning of his interest in community psychiatry. Dr. Atcheson was on active duty until the end of the war in 1945. At that time, he was offered a chance to return to the Allan Memorial Institute, but after having an interview with C.B. Farrar, he was inspired instead to spend a year at Ontario Hospital, Hamilton (1945-1946). Dr. Atcheson subsequently spent at year at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital (1946-1947) during which time he earned a Diploma in Psychiatry from the University of Toronto (1946). The following year he obtained his certification in Psychiatry from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada [C.R.C.P.(C)]. Dr. Atcheson’s first clinical appointment was as Director of the Juvenile and Family Court Clinic in Toronto (1947-1957). He concurrently acted as a consultant to the Department of Corrections with respect to training schools (1949-1957) and briefly served as Director of Treatment Services, Department of Corrections in 1958. Resigning from the Juvenile and Family Court Clinic, he helped to create a residential treatment center for children known as the Thistletown Hospital for Emotionally Disturbed Children (later known as Thistletown Regional Centre for Children and Adolescents). He was its Superintendent from 1958 to 1969 and its Medical Director and Chief-of-Staff from 1969 to 1971. While at Thistletown, Dr. Atcheson and several of his colleagues began to participate in a psychiatric consulting service to the Eastern Arctic region of Canada. They were first contracted by the Department of National Health and Welfare in 1965 to conduct a survey of learning problems in the school system that had been imposed upon Inuit children. In 1968, Dr. Atcheson chaired a committee of fellow consultants to the Arctic, toured facilities in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic, and surveyed mental health needs, suggesting methods for providing service to Arctic communities. Subsequent agreements were made between the Government of Canada and the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry with respect to the provision of psychiatric consultation services to the north. Dr. Atcheson continued as a psychiatric consultant when he was employed by the Clarke Institute as a Senior Psychiatrist and Director of the Forensic Out Patient Division (1971-[after 1983]). Dr. Atcheson also obtained a final certification in psychiatry in 1972, when he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada [F.R.C.P.(C)]. While working at the Clarke Institute, Dr. Atcheson was called to testify at the Berger Commission (also known as the McKenzie Pipeline Inquiry) with respect to how the proposed pipeline would affect the health of the inhabitants of that region. He also acted as a consultant to the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton (1974-[after 1983]) and became a member of the Lieutenant Governor’s Advisory Review Board of Ontario (1975-[ca. 1998]). Additionally, he was a Councilor for the Workers Compensation Board of Appeal in the late 1990s. While holding the aforementioned clinical appointments, Dr. Atcheson also held the following academic appointments in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry: Associate (1947-57); Assistant Professor, (1957-65); Associate Professor (1965-1977); Professor (1977-1983); Professor Emeritus (1983-[2004]). He was also an Associate of the University of Toronto’s School of Nursing (1947-?) and a Special Lecturer for the University of Toronto’s Institute of Child Study (dates unknown). Dr. Atcheson was very active in several professional associations such as the Canadian Medical Association [CMA], Ontario Medical Association [OMA], Canadian Psychiatric Association [CPA], Ontario Psychiatric Association [OPA], American Psychiatric Association [APA], Medico-Legal Society (for which he was appointed to Council in 1985), and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. He was President of the OPA in 1965, became a Fellow of the APA in 1958, and later became an Honorary Life Fellow of the same association. In addition, Dr. Atcheson chaired the Law Reform Commission’s Nucleus Committee on Privileged Communication and Evidence in the mid-1970s. Lastly, he was presented with several awards and honours such as being given a Canadian Centennial Medal in 1968, becoming an Honourary Life Member of the Ontario Child Care Workers Association, and being given an Award of Merit from the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Services. Throughout his career, Dr. Atcheson authored and co-authored numerous publications, reports, and studies, particularly with respect the topics of juvenile offenders and mental health issues in the Canadian Arctic (including psychiatric disorders and forensic psychiatry in Arctic regions). Don Atcheson passed away on 25 May 2004 in his 87th year at Woods Park Lodge in Barrie. He was survived by his wife Doris Jean (Blackall) of Barrie. He was also father to Peter, Sally and Mary and grandfather to six persons.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists primarily of materials pertaining to Dr. Atcheson’s professional development and career, particularly his employment at the Juvenile and Family Court Clinic of Toronto, the Thistletown Hospital for Emotionally Disturbed Children (later known as Thistletown Regional Centre for Children and Adolescents), the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, and the University of Toronto. Fonds consists largely of records pertaining to Dr. Atcheson’s consultancy work to the Canadian Arctic, for which he was contracted by the Government of Canada while otherwise employed at Thistletown and later at the Clarke Institute. Fonds also contains records pertaining to Dr. Atcheson’s involvement with various professional associations and committees, notably the Ontario Psychiatric Association and the Law Reform Commission, particularly with respect to work done in the medical field concerning the issue of practitioner-patient privilege and the confidentiality of health information. Fonds also includes a small portion of correspondence that documents minor issues related to Dr. Atcheson’s private affairs. Fonds consists of correspondence and memoranda, publications, newsletters, articles, reports, copies of Dr. Atcheson’s curriculum vitae, holograph notes, employment-related material (i.e., pay stubs, position descriptions, staff lists, etc.), conference-related material (i.e., programmes, pamphlets, copies of presented papers), contracts related to consultancy work in the Arctic, patient-related records (i.e., case history forms, patient lists, etc.), court transcripts, submissions to various commissions and committees, meeting agendas and minutes, and other related documentation. Also includes one pencil sketch, some cartographic records, and some photographic records. Fonds is comprised of the following series: Correspondence Juvenile and Family Court Clinic, Toronto Thistletown Hospital / Thistletown Regional Centre Clarke Institute of Psychiatry Consultancy to the Canadian Arctic Senate Committees Professional associations and committees Law Reform Commission Publications, reports, articles, court transcripts, and presentations Photographic records

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Fonds was donated by Dr. Atcheson in Oct. 1995.


Language of material

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Files that contain personal information or personal health information are restricted in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). Refer to series-, sub-series-, and file-level descriptions for more information on which specific files are restricted. Application to consult these files may be made to the Archivist.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Detailed finding aid is available in hard-copy, MS Word, and database formats.

Associated materials

An interview with Dr. Atcheson by Dr. David Goldbloom (Apr. 2001) is available in CAMH Archives’ video collection.

Related materials


General note

All newsclippings were photocopied for preservation reasons and the originals were destroyed.

General note

Some material is in French, German, Russian, and Inuktitut.

General note

Title is based on the content of the fonds.

General note

Files that originally contained material pertaining to more than one series were split into multiple files and cross-referenced.

General note

References: “Atcheson, J. Donald”. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Archives. Biographical file. Aug. 2005.

Alternative identifier(s)

Standard number area

Standard number

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Control area

Description record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules or conventions


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Language of description

Script of description


Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related places

Related genres