An article on the Provincial Training School in Red Deer, Alberta, aka the Michener Centre, has just appeared on Wikipedia. It is based on work that Mona Horvatic did as a student in Philosophy 217 (Biology, Society, and Values) in Winter 2011, with additional work to bring it to completion being undertaken by Andrew Ball as a summer RA for Living Archives. This will be the first in a series of Wikipedia articles on Canadian eugenics to finally make their way onto Wikipedia, joining about 10 others already there. So, if it keeps raining where ever you are for YOUR summer, you’ll have something to read …
Well, at last, here it is. Watch, enjoy, share, like.
42 million in cuts to services for the disabled in Alberta!
Over the past several months you may have been aware that Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) has been directed, along with many other social programs, to make arrangements for budget cuts. These cutbacks are happening alongside an effort by PDD to better regulate funding models for people. These changes, unfortunately, make what we need to present at this time more complicated. Administrative changes around assessing support needs is co-mingled with the severe funding cutbacks being experienced across the province of Alberta.
Living Archives Team member Dr Heidi Janz has been recognized as a Woman with Vision. Heidi is a playwright, author, researcher, PhD scholar, adjunct professor and a woman with cerebral palsy. Lesley MacDonald from Global Television Edmonton calls Janz a “remarkable woman.” When I asked Heidi if I could share this article on the Living Archives blog she said “Sure. The headline kind of makes me sound like a 21st-century female Ironside!” I’s true I thought. All we need is a picture of Heidi with her side-kicks – cue the music!
The article by Lesley MacDonald can be found here:
Recently, the Alberta government announced the future closure of the Michener Centre, an institution that houses people with developmental disabilities in Red Deer, Alberta. The centre is home to some 125 Albertans with developmental disabilities and has been in operation since the 1950′s.
Headlines read: Michener Centre formerly the Provincial Training School (PTS) for Mental Defectives closes – celebration for some but not for everyone
A series of articles have been written about the closure of the Michener Centre. Living Archives team members, Leilani Muir and Bruce Uditisky have commented to reporters about their reactions to the closure. Both applaud the decision but many others criticize the decision to close Michener. The loss of jobs and the disruption for current residents are concerns for supporters of the institution. However, amidst mixed reaction the Michener stands as a reminder of our recent history of eugenics and the institutionalization of thousands of individuals. The shift towards a more inclusive society and away from isolation and initialization is a change towards recognizing and perhaps even appreciating human variation.
Here are links to several different articles: Continue reading
Some of you may be aware of the matter of “Baby M”, involving a 2-year-old child who was admitted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, on May 25, 2012. She required a ventilator for life support. Despite the parents’ opposition to the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, which incorporated their religious beliefs, the Court of Queen’s Bench found that it was in the child’s best interests to terminate life support and, on September 14, 2012, ordered the withdrawal of the ventilator. The Court held that there is a general notion in society that a life dependent upon machines and without awareness is not in the best interests of any patient. On September 19, 2012, a three member panel of the Court of Appeal held that there was no error in principle in the Queen’s Bench decision and the appeal was dismissed. On September 20, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the parents’ application for a further stay. “Baby M’s” ventilator was removed, she suffocated, and died.
The parents are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to have Canada’s highest court decide important issues regarding termination of life-sustaining medical treatment. This decision of the lower courts and, if leave is granted, the ultimate decision of the Supreme Court of Canada will decide the process that will be used and who will make decisions to terminate life support.
These decisions of the Alberta Courts and how they will be followed in the future may ultimately affect individuals in your organization or your community. Should you believe that you, your organization, or community have a position on these life and death issues that should be heard and considered Continue reading
I have no desire to rekindle the flame of this man’s still unrepentant posture that ending Tracy’s life was a blameless act. My quarrel here is not with a Saskatchewan farmer, or an Ontario mother, or any other horribly misguided parent seeking to end the life of a disabled child. My quarrel is with the clichés and platitudes that both foster and condone a very particular homicidal impulse. It is a preposterous notion that Tracy’s life did not conform to the law of nature that Robert somehow epitomizes. The simplistic morality of pitting the “law of nature” against the “law of a nation” – the core assertion of Global’s Taking Mercy – must be exposed for what it is: a fundamentally eugenic rhetoric.
Check out Catherine Frazee on Global’s “Taking Mercy”, and on the Latimer case more generally, from whom this paragraph is taken.
from The National Post, by Michael Shevell
This NP article is itself taken from a longer article in the January 2012 issue of the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences.
Though bespectacled and slight of build, Tommy Douglas is a giant of 20th Century Canadian history. His iconic, indeed mythic, status within the Canadian historical landscape is exemplified by his selection, in 2004, as “The Greatest Canadian” in a CBC-mandated competition above such luminaries as former Prime Ministers Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Lester Bowles Pearson, scientist Frederick Banting, and hockey great Wayne Gretzky. This honour reflects Douglas’ role as the “father” of Canadian Medicare, which has emerged, for better or worse, as a defining feature of a Canadian national identity.
Medicare has in effect emerged as a statement of national values. Values that include compassion, fairness, tolerance and equality; values that are not selectively applied, but are extended to embrace even the most vulnerable of Canadians.
Eugenics, by contrast, concerns itself at its most fundamental level with the selective breeding of humanity to improve the human species. At a practical level, eugenics in the 20th century involved the removal from the gene pool by various means those classes of individuals considered “inferior stock,” whose deficits had an inherited basis that was immutable for future generations. These classes included those suffering from mental illness, intellectual disability or what was characterized as social diseases (e.g, alcoholism, delinquency).
The broad principles of universal-access medicare contradict those that can be utilized to justify the practice of eugenics. It would be paradoxical for an individual to support both. Yet Tommy Douglas did so with moral persuasion. Careful analysis of this contradiction reveals with hindsight further paradoxes that merit consideration. … read more
from Natalie Ball, working with Gregor Wolbring at the University of Calgary on the Living Archives on Eugenics project:
People with disabilities often were targeted by the state for eugenic intervention. Such policies and practices continue to impact the lives of people with disabilities. The word ‘eugenics’ often invokes thoughts of forced sexual sterilization mandated by a governing body. It recalls to mind 19th and 20th century ideas about a ‘master’ race, the Holocaust and ‘forgotten crimes’. Yet, eugenics often is seen as a dark era of the past, a regrettable fragment of history, beliefs, ideas and practices from which modern society progressively has distanced itself. But is eugenics truly limited to the past?
Eugenics is not just an historical experience. It is, arguably, a contemporary and future topic of concern for people with disabilities and for disability study scholars. To understand why we need only look at how the concept and practice were understood by Sir Francis Galton, the person who coined the term, and the way in which eugenics practices have changed over time. In his 1883 book Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development, Galton introduced the term as follows: “the investigation of human eugenics – that is, of the conditions under which men of a high type are produced.”
You can read the full article at the FEDCAN blog here
A decision by a Federal Court judge last week could have implications for the Living Archives project.
The decision, which can be found in its entirety here, gives Library and Archives Canada 90 days to reconsider its decision to withhold parts of a secret RCMP dossier on Tommy Douglas that was requested by journalist, Jim Bronskill, over 6 years ago.
For more on this, check out the Canadian Press article printed in The Toronto Star and available here.
In his decision, Justice Simon Noel notes that “this case highlights the importance of transferring information to the public domain for the benefit of present and future Canadians as well as our collective knowledge and memory as a country.”
It’s unlikely that this decision will have an immediate impact on the way those who control access to the information about our past will operate, but it sets a significant precedent that recognizes the importance of maintaining and building collective knowledge and memory about the past.
Hat-tip to Baldwin Reichwein for bringing this story to our attention.
Below is a press release that is being circulated today by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. The release concerns a decision by Immigration Canada to reject a family’s immigration application because the family includes a disabled child.
Sweeping immigration restrictions were an important part of the eugenics movement in Canada and the US. However, I think it is not quite right to call the rejection of this family’s immigration application a form of eugenics. I think it makes a difference that an important motivation for immigration restrictions in the past was that immigrants would breed with “Canadians” and “Americans” and produce “inferior stock”. I don’t believe that is what is motivating immigration restrictions like the one discussed in the press release.
That said, what I think is true is that similar sorts of attitudes about disability underlie both historical and contemporary immigration restrictions and that such restrictions are far too sweeping and constitute a form of discrimination.
The most important attitudes that I think underlie both historical and current immigration restrictions are 1) that disability is a financial burden that the public has the right to refuse to bear, and 2) that disability is the result of some sort of biological defect possessed by an individual. It seems to me much harder to justify preventing this family from living in Canada once it’s recognized that any additional costs associated with disability (granting for the sake of argument that there are such costs, though they are often exaggerated) are the result of unjust and badly designed products, services, and institutions, which the Canadian government is largely responsible for creating and perpetuating.
Full press release is below.
In yet another example of alleged abuse of vulnerable populations in residential schools, this Chronicle-Journal article describes a class-action law suit filed against the Ontario government on the grounds of negligence and breaches of fiduciary duties by the school staff.
Robert Seed, 64, is the representative plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, which claims the staff at the W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind, in Brantford, Ont., bullied, humiliated and abused — mentally and physically — the plaintiffs in the 1950s and 1960s. The lawsuit is still in its early stages. The claim was filed at Superior Court in Toronto last month.
In Dialogue of the Domestic, University of Alberta graduate student Anna House says she tries to show how, by arranging items in homes, occupants tell stories about themselves and leave out disturbing details they prefer kept out of the spotlight. She says that domestic interior tells a story about relationships and human character.
Six decades ago, a malady known as consumption stormed across the Arctic, snuffing hundreds of lives, tearing apart thousands of families, and seeding a deep distrust in a bungling public health-care system.
Now, the pernicious disease written so indelibly upon Inuit history and psychology is making an unwelcome return to the North. This week, Nunavut recorded its 98th case of tuberculosis in 2010, the most logged in the territory’s 11-year history. Continue reading
Globe and Mail journalist Maragaret Wente barely passed the online Immigrantion sample test. An interesting perspective about Canadian citizenship, immigrants and family members. Language requirements for new immigrants and cuts to language programs for new immigrants don’t add up but should we be surprised?
The new citizenship test is not a snap. I took a sample test online, and barely passed. (“You might have to study harder!” scolded the automatic message.) People are grousing because failure rates have soared. In some places, they’re hitting 30 per cent. Yet the questions aren’t really harder than they were when I took the test for real more than 30 years ago. So what’s happened?
from CBC Edmonton, last night, with stacks of comments already.
Front page, Edmonton Journal, by Andrea Sands:
The 5-year project, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada will launch its public face with some inaugural events in Edmonton at the end of this week. All events are free and open to the public, and we welcome community and university members, individuals and organizations.
We start on Friday 22nd October, 2010, with a keynote address by Professor Douglas Wahlsten at the Telus Centre on the campus of the University of Alberta, at 7pm, entitled “Eugenics in Alberta: Science and Politics”. The talk is in Room 150, doors open at 6:30 and a reception will follow.
Events on Saturday October 23, 2010 take place on the lower floor of the Stanley Milner Library located opposite Churchill Square in Edmonton. We will be downstairs in the Edmonton Room, with coffee and snacks available at 9.45am and the first session starting at 10.00am. Members of the public are also welcome to attend a short meeting of the governing board, which will begin at 9.00am in the same location. The Saturday events include:
- Dick Sobsey & Heidi Janz “Picturing Eugenics: Telling the Story of Eugenics Through Alternative Communication”
- Erika Dyck, “Building a People’s History of Eugenics: Archives Past and Present”
- Gregor Wolbring, “Dynamics Around Eugenic Acceptance and Rejection: Lesson for the Future”
- Claudia Malacrida, “Creating an Oral History of Eugenics Questions of Scope, Ethics and Access”
To register for the free lunch or request disability accommodations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or register directly at
. You can also get updated information at