Nutritional Experiments on Aboriginal Peoples in the News

As a follow-up to the previous post, “Hungry aboriginal kids, adults were subject of nutritional experiments“, here is some coverage of the events through the Toronto Star and CBC.  Article highlights are as follows.

After World War II, the Canadian government subjected aboriginal children and adults to nutritional experiments without their consent.  Many of these experiments were conducted in order to gather information about what the human body needs in terms of vitamins and nutrition.  It resulted in lack of dental care for Aboriginal peoples as well, in order to use gum health as an undistorted measuring tool for scientists (Livingstone, Toronto Star).

Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, states in the Toronto Star that

“This discovery, it’s indicative of the attitude toward aboriginals,” Sinclair said. “They thought aboriginals shouldn’t be consulted and their consent shouldn’t be asked for. They looked at it as a right to do what they wanted then.” (Sinclair, July 21 2013)

It is likely that even at the time, these experiments were seen as ethically dubious (perhaps especially after the atrocities of World War II), and therefore probably why Ian Mosby, the post-doctorate from the University of Guelph, whose research brought these policies to life, uncovered only “vague references to studies conducted on ‘Indians'” while researching the development of health policy for a different project (Livingstone, Toronto Star).

Mosby elaborates, again suggesting the classification of Aboriginals as less than other people,

“I think they really did think they were helping people. Whether they thought they were helping the people that were actually involved in the studies — that’s a different question.” (Mosby, July 21 2013)

The CBC provides archival material from via historian James Daschuk, of a 1946 report of the lives of First Nations in Northern Manitoba.

1946 Report: Medical survey of nutrition among the Northern Manitoba Indians

You can read the full articles through the links below:

Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/07/16/hungry_aboriginal_kids_used_unwittingly_in_nutrition_experiments_researcher_says.html

CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2013/07/18/starvation-politics-aboriginal-nutrition-experiments-in-canada/

LAE Presents at the 41st Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of Information Science (CAIS-ASCI) at the University of Victoria, British Columbia

The website heading for the CAIS - ASCI conference, where the Living Archives Project presented.

The website heading for the CAIS – ASCI conference, where the Living Archives Project presented.

On June 6th, 2013, the Living Archives presented the paper “Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada: Oral History & Technology as Public and Academic Resources.”  This presentation was given at the 41st annual conference of the Canadian Association of Information Science (CAIS-ASCI), at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, as part of Congress 2013 for the Humanities and Social Sciences.  The purpose of CAIS is to promote the advancement of information science in Canada, including the exchange of information relating to use, access, retrieval, organization, management, and dissemination of information.  Members include information professionals such as archivists, librarians, compter scientists, psychologists, etc.

The theme for CAIS 2013 was “Tales from the Edge: Narrative Voices in Information Research and Practice,” and showcased leading edge research and practice revolving around narrative.  The Living Archives Project deals strongly with methods of narrative, as the project involves capturing not only archival documents related to eugenics and its history in Western Canada, but the oral history of eugenics in Western Canada as well.  Further, LAE seeks to bring the narrative of eugenics in Western Canada to the public and academic researchers alike, through initiatives such as the development of high school modules, and an interactive, multimedia website, which showcases these materials in new, accessible, and innovative ways.

Led by Moyra Lang, Project Co-ordinator, the talk covered a brief history of eugenics in Western Canada, some information about the formation of the project, and an overview of the research methods used in producing the project deliverables, described above.  These methods include an interactive and phenomenological framework, with auto-ethnographical approaches, in the creation of oral history video interviews (which are edited by interviewees themselves); and grounded theory in the use of “memo-ing,” a process of recording thoughts and ideas immediately after conducting an interview, in order to help improve the process.  Special attention was give to efforts on the part of the project to provide a safe environment for these oral interviews to take place, and of the development of accessible materials (both digitally and physically through physical spaces used for events).  The talk was co-developed with technical team research assistant, Colette Leung.

For a full list of conference proceedings, including a short abstract, see the CAIS Programme here.

Fashion and Medical Appliances

Recent surges forward have been made in creating clothing and accessories that help women “feel gorgeous in their own skin — and spark conversation about a previously taboo topic,” that of external medical appliances that are necessary for some conditions.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/03/living/disability-fashion/index.html

In the article, interviewees discuss how they were always advised to hide their conditions, internalizing feelings of shame and stigma.  In some cases, girls described their self-image of suffering from “cyborg anxiety,” and acknowledged that dependency on medical appliances becomes “a huge part of your identity.”  New designs allowing these to be fashionably integrated into everyday wear allows wearers to share their stories “in a non-medical space.”
Also of interest are comments on the bottom of the article.

 

 

 

 

Recompensation for Eugenic Sterilization in North Carolina Thwarted

Eugenic Sterilization laws were in effect in North Carolina between 1929 and 1974 – dates very close to the existence of such laws in Alberta, Canada (from 1928 to 1972), which resulted in nearly 8,000 sterilizations.  These focused originally on those who were mentally ill or mentally retarded, and living in institutions.  However, this grew to include criminals, the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those suffering from epilepsy, and those who were poor.

The debate for compensating these victimes have been ongoing for some time in the Carolinas, eventually culminating in the creation of a bill that went to the General Assembly, suggesting that each victim be paid $50,000 by the government.  In Alberta, a number of cases against the government have been successful in gaining compensation for wrongful sterilization, including the well-known case of Leilani Muir.    However, the General Assembly voted this past week against these measures.

The General Assembly cites the tough economic time, and the difficulty they have in justifying spending $10 million when the money is not in the budget.  They further justify their decision, saying that history cannot be changed, and that are indeed many suppressed groups over history, including slaves and Aboriginals, who have suffered.  These statements have generated even more debate.  For more articles and reactions, see links below.

Links

  1. Tax Provision Could Thwart Compensation for Eugenic Victims – Carolina Journal
  2. Changing History – Mount Airy News
  3. No Easy Answers – Mount Airy News
  4. Column  – Winston-Salem Journal

Follow up on Hidden Ultrasound Results

On April 18, 2012, I posted an article from the Toronto Star, detailing how hospitals in the GTA have been telling their staff to stop telling the sex of a fetus from an ultrasound to parents, in order to prevent gender-based abortions.  Recently, the CBC used “hidden cameras” in order to explore the state of the situation in private ultrasound clinics across Canada.  Their discoveries are detailed in the article below.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/06/12/ultrasound-gender-testing.html

Gender testing is very prevalent in private clinics, and further, Canada offers no law preventing clinics from sharing gender with parents before the 20 week mark (after which most doctors will not provide abortions), unlike China, India, and the UK.  The US recently tried to pass a similar law, but the proposal fell through, as it was determined to be impossible to prove why parents would request gender.

The article suggests that further education would be greatly beneficial to parents on the value of both female and male children.

Eugenics in Toronto – Hiding Ultra-sound results

The Toronto Star recently released an article on the fact that many GTA hospitals, “particularly those in ‘ethnic’ areas [...] won’t let their ultrasound staff tell pregnant women the sex of the fetus,” in order to prevent abortion.

A study from St. Michael’s Hospital reveals that while male/female rations for first child of immigrants from India is 105/1oo, the ratio for third children of immigrants was 136/100.  Although researchers caution that their findings are not actually evidence of female feticide (indeed, they do not know why results have turned out as such) and urge people not to racially profile citizens after that, it has caused some concern in the community, and resulted in withheld ultrasounds.

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1162357–female-feticide-is-it-happening-in-ontario?bn=1

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1162613–six-gta-hospitals-won-t-reveal-fetal-sex-during-ultrasound?bn=1

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1163258–hiding-toronto-hospital-ultrasound-results-to-prevent-sex-selection-is-pointless-and-possibly-racist

Bioethicist, Tom Koch, commented on pregnant women who choose to abort a fetus with Down syndrome, “We’re engaged in eugenics.”

Haraway and the (Im)possibility of Cyborg Eugenics – Presentation by Joshua St. Pierre

Last week, on March 23, 2012, Joshua St. Pierre, one of the summer interns from the Living Archives Project who is currently working on his MA in Philosophy at the University of Alberta, gave a presentation entitled, “Haraway and the (Im)possibility of Cyborg Eugenics.”

His abstract from the conference is as follows:

While the discourse of so-called “new eugenics” is becoming increasingly popular in cyberculture, I argue that new eugenics is discussed as a mere technological overlay of pre-existing eugenic ideologies, ideologies undercut by “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Donna Haraway’s cyborg resists the natural and essential properties (racial, class or genetic purity, normalized categories such as “feeble mindedness,” or binaries like primitive/civilized) which made twentieth century eugenic programs, and by extension new eugenics, possible. However, Haraway’s politically and eugenically resilient cyborg opens the possibility for a “cyborg eugenics” proper.

Instead of essential properties, Haraway argues that human diversity and biotic components must be conceived of in terms of “design, boundary constraints, rates of flow, systems logics, costs of lowering constraints” (162). Thus, the Harawaian cyborg translates the modern concepts of ‘eugenics’ and ‘perfection’ to the concepts of ‘population control’ and ‘optimization’ (161).  While the terms ‘optimal’ and ‘population control’ lack the totalizing ideological overtones of a “master race” or the “feeble minded,” such categories force the choice of what sorts of people there should be, fragmented or not, and therefore what sorts of people there should not be.

Paralleling Hannah Arendt’s account of the banal holocaust logistician Adolf Eichmann, I argue that cyborg eugenics arise indirectly from the non-reflective fixation of the cyborg on optimizing technical problems. The Harawaian cyborg thus resists forms of eugenics rooted in claims of nature, telos or purity, but is seemingly unaware of the dark eugenic possibilities latent in the language of instrumentalization and optimization.

 It was a very interesting presentation, that provided a lot to think about in terms of the role of eugenics as modern technology evolves and becomes incorporated in the human, and the role of eugenics in posthuman literature.

Sweden Moves to End Forced Sterilization of Transgender People

Sweden, “one of 17 [countries] in the European Union,” may soon change a law that requires transgendered people to become sexually sterilized if they decide to officially change gender.  Sweden has made moves to repeal the law in January, only to be stopped by the Christian Democrat Party.  However, this party has recently changed their mind, allowing the repeal to go through.

http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/02/sweden-moves-to-end-forced-sterilization-transgender-people

This move was partially in thanks to an online petition, by AllOut (http://allout.org/en/actions/stop_forced_sterilization), which gained 80,000 international signatures to repeal the law.  However, the date for repealing the law is still pending.

Countries that still require sterilization include France, Italy, Romania, Poland, Greece, and Portugal.  For a map outlining the current status of European sterilization, you can link here: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/02/most-european-countries-force-sterilization-transgender-people-map

Mixed Britannia

In October 2011, BBC released a documentary series entitled “Mixed Britannia.”  A related news article can be found at the link below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15164970

The first couple of parts spend quite a bit of time touching on the pseudo-science of eugenics in Britain, and the role it played in shaping its society, as well as its views on women.

The Racial Hygiene Society focused in the early 1900s on looking at race, and most specifically, mixed race.  As one quote from the documentary stated, Continue reading

One Child, Three Biological Parents – End of Diseases?

Last week, The Telegraph announced that within three years, it will be possible to have three biological parents for any one embryo using in-vitro fertilization.  Why would anyone pursue such a technique?  To “eradicate hereditary disease.”  You can read the full artcle below:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9025121/Babies-with-three-parents-possible-within-three-years.html

This controversial method proposes that transferring a tiny fraction of DNA from a different donor than only the parents will result in a child without mitochondria-related diseases.  (Mitochondrial diseases are often severe and incurable, including muscular dystrophy and ataxia).  Researchers believe they can wipe out such diseases within a generation.  Children would also retain DNA from both their mother and their father.  The genetic implant of a third person is described as being “as minimal as changing the batteries in a camera.”

Researchers are also placing great emphasis on needing public support, before current laws (which would prevent such an operation) become changed.  Strong opposition comes from “groups who oppose embryo research and claim genetic engineering can result in serious defects.”

What is perhaps equally interesting to the article itself is the poll available on the website.  The Telegraph asks: Continue reading

Post-Conference Technical Things

Last week, the Living Archives group held a conference that took place over the span of two days: Friday, October 22, and Saturday, October 23. This conference allowed for many partners to meet up, as busy schedules so rarely allow.

From a technical standpoint, the conference was also an opportunity for an introduction of a website development plan, which was presented to associated members. This website looks to incorporate archives (image, document, video, and physical) with public interface, and a back-end research interface, allowing scholars and researchers access to documents that for various reasons aren’t in the public domain. As well, a proposal for a series of learning or discovery modules was set forward, which would look to recontextualize archival material with educational and interactive elements, presenting information in new and interesting ways.

For those with access to the Living Archives Wiki, the plan and associated presentation are available on the wiki.