A Whisper Past: Childless after Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta by Leilani Muir

Leilani Muir, eugenic survivor has written her biography and launched it at the Alberta Gallery of Art on May 24, 2014. The event was hosted by the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada (http://eugenicsarchive.ca/). Leilani was the first person to file a successful law suit against the province of Alberta, Canada for wrongful sterilization under the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta.

Muir lived in several small towns in Alberta until she was sent to the Red Deer institution. The education she received there did not prepare her for life on the outside, but after she left the institution and escaped from her mother’s custody and at the age of 20, she learned quickly and worked in several cities in Western Canada as a waitress, a retail sales person, and a baby sitter, caring for as many as six children at one time. Only when she married did she learn the awful truth about the sterilization. After winning her case in court, her story was featured in a documentary by the National Film Board of Canada. She spoke at several public forums in Canada, The United States and France, and she ran for election to the Alberta legislature for the New Democratic Party. Recently she was designated a Game Changer on the CBC radio show The Currents, and her story was dramatized in the play The Invisible Child at the Edmonton Fringe theatre festival. She now serves as a governing board member for the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, a Community-University Research Alliance project at the University of Alberta. Leilani’s story educates us about Canada’s eugenic past and raises awareness about the on-going discrimination against people with disabilities.

You can get a copy of Leilani’s book “A Whisper Past” online at: http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000013125148/Leilani-Muir-A-Whisper-Past

cropped book cover

Watch for “Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told” a film highlighting the experiences of eugenic survivors, featuring Leilani and others including several local people with disabilities. The film and reception will be held at the Metro Cinema, in Edmonton on Monday October 20, 2014 as part of Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week 2014. For more details about AEAW 2014 and the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada go to our website: http://eugenicsarchive.ca/#events-section

Petition to ban the sterilization of prisoners in California: NOW

The State of California cares for its prisoners so badly that in 2005, a judge mandated federal oversight of their prison healthcare system after it was documented that one person dies in California prisons every day from extreme medical malpractice or neglect. But as horrific as these crimes of neglect are, it shocks the conscience anew to hear that the medical care that was provided to prisoners included forced sterilization as recently as 2010. [1]
 
 
Eugenics is a word that sounds to too many of us like it belongs only in the history books, but the eugenics programs started in California in the 1920s were found still alive and kicking in its prisons until very recently. While mainstream, and mostly white, women’s rights advocates celebrated and defended legal abortion, too little attention has been paid to genocidal medical violence practiced against members of society deemed ‘unfit’ parents due to poverty, mental health, or non-white ethnicity. 
 
As Loretta Ross, an African American victim of forced sterilization at the age of 23, wrote recently, “After my sterilization, I felt empty, lost, and butchered. I was in shock and felt powerless.” [1] There is no justification for an atrocity like this and the State of California must immediately act to ensure that state power is never again abused to deprive people of their right to parent and make their own decisions about their family size.
 
 
Natasha Chart
Campaign Director, RH Reality Check
 

“A Whisper Past”: book launch at the AGA, Saturday 4-7pm

The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada is pleased to be sponsoring a celebratory launch for Leilani Muir’s autobiographical book “A Whisper Past” on Saturday May 24th in the Borealis Room on the 4th floor of the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA), 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton.

Doors at 4:00 pm. Introductions and a reading at 4:30, reception will follow. Appetizers & complimentary non-alcoholic drinks will be served. A cash bar is available from 5 pm – 7 pm.

Copies of Leilani’s book will be available for purchase and Leilani will be signing books.

 


 

Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta)

For anyone interested, here is the URL to the Albertan Canadian Paraplegic Association’s online newsletter Wheel-E. You can subscribe to Wheel-E via email or phone (780-424-6312 for local calls or 1-888-654-5444 for toll free phone calls outside of Edmonton). If you have announcements you would like to post, you can submit them via the email address (the deadline for submission is the 26th of each month).

Eva Feder Kittay: 2014 Guggenheim Fellow

Eva Feder Kittay, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University and Senior Fellow of the Stony Brook Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete a book tentatively titled Disabled Minds and Things that Matter: Lessons for a Humbler Philosophy. The prestigious fellowship, which places Professor Kittay in the company of many illustrious names, which also includes a lengthy list of noble prize laureates (Czeslaw Milosz being a particular favourite of mine), was established in 1925 and is granted to individuals whose work makes substantial contributions to education, literature, art, and science. Professor Kittay’s work pushes philosophical discourse beyond the inadequate rationalistic framework that has traditionally been utilized to measure the worth of persons. She urges that actual relationships of care and love characterize who we are and why we are morally considerable. Equipped with both the argumentative and analytic tools of a philosopher and the personal experience of being a parent of a child with severe cognitive disabilities, Eva Kittay is in a unique position to play the part of a competent judge whose insights have great philosophical, and more saliently, educational value. Although Disabled Minds and Things that Matter: Lessons for a Humbler Philosophy will be a philosophically rigorous contemplation on the place of disability in philosophical discourse, it will nevertheless be aimed at the educated lay reader, meaning that it will not only shape future philosophical projects, but will also serve to educate the public.

Why is a focus on disability important to the future of philosophical research? Taking severe cognitive disabilities into account when formulating questions in philosophy will force us to reframe both traditional and contemporary inquiries. For example, the rationalistic model of personhood inherited from Aristotle and Kant as well as the numerous individualistic psychological accounts of diachronic personal identity that have been developed since Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding will have to give way to other, more inclusive models and accounts that better represent the relational nature of memory, personhood, and moral status of human beings. Relational personhood and an extended account of personal identity, which is the focus of my own research is indebted to such fundamental reframing of philosophical questions by placing the interests of individuals with severe cognitive disabilities at the centre of our philosophical contemplations regarding the moral status of persons. If placing disability at the centre of philosophical inquiry helps philosophy transcend its current theoretical bounds, then not only is Eva Kittay correct in suggesting that disability is at the frontier of philosophy itself, but Professor Kittay and those her research project inspires to work at the intersection of philosophy and disability studies are forging a new philosophical direction in the time honoured spirit of philosophical innovation and transformation.