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.
The Right to Not to Work: Power and Disability by Sunny Taylor
“The disabled are viewed with sympathy as victims of “bad luck” who will simply have to accept disadvantage as their lot in life, not as an identity group that is systematically discriminated against. Unlike sexism and racism, which are perceived to be significant social problems, disability falls under the social radar and disablism is not recognized as a damaging or even particularly serious form of prejudice.” The public remains unconvinced that the struggle for disability rights is actually their sturrgle as well….
Canadians with disabilities are about one and a half times as likely to be victims of violence as other Canadians. People with disabilities in Canada have civil rights on paper but not in practice. Canadian citizens, everyday, have their civil rights ruthlessly violated by their government. This has to be stopped, because Hope is Not a Plan!
In November, I posted on the Australian Senate Inquiry into the forced sterilization of women and girls with disabilities. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has just made its powerful, eye-opening submission to the Inquiry. And there’s something you can do, pronto, that may make a difference here: endorse or support the submission. Anyone who thinks that forced sterilization is a “thing of the past” shoudl read this submission. First, from the submission (p.20),
There is a historical precedent in several countries including for example the USA (until the 1950s), in Canada and Sweden (until the 1970s), and Japan (until 1996) indicating that torture of women and girls with disabilities by sterilisation occurred on a collective scale – that is, mass forced sterilisation. This policy was rationalised by a pseudo-scientific theory called eugenics – the aim being the eradication of a wide range of social problems by preventing those with ‘physical, mental or social problems’ from reproducing. Although eugenic policies have now been erased from legal statutes in most countries, vestiges still remain within some areas of the legal and medical establishments and within the attitudes of some sectors of the community:
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 →
22 May 2012 Disability Rights Washington and Video Galaxy have great new video on the Ashley Treatment on their website. There is also a poll on this page asking whether you believe more safeguards are needed to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities from civil rights violations and medical discrimination of the Ashley Treatment and related procedures. Continue reading →
Argentina’s strict anti-abortion laws got a minor make-over recently, as the Supreme Court of Argentina has ruled that rape victims will not be persecuted for having abortions. The supreme court unanimously backed the decision of allowing a 15-year-old girl, who endured years of sexual abuse by her stepfather, to terminate her pregnancy. “However, the judges said that their decision was not part of a discussion about the legalisation of abortion in Argentina, but just a clarification of existing laws” (see article).
The controversy was centred around Section 2, Article 86 of the Argentine penal code, which states that “abortion is not a punishable act ‘if the pregnancy stems from a rape or an attack on the modesty of a woman of feeble mind’” (see article). The horrible suffering of the poor 15-year old aside, it is interesting to note that the Argentinian law’s phrasing includes “feeble mindedness” in its allowances for legal abortions. Curiously (and I think quite tellingly), the point of debate in interpreting the law had to do with whether or not all rape victims or just those who are deemed “feeble minded” should be allowed to terminate their pregnancies.
Now, putting the phrase “feeble minded” in the sentence cannot have anything to do with informed consent (and the fact that some individuals might be deemed incapable of giving it) since the law pertains to rape cases, which, by their very definition, are instances where neither informed nor any other kind of consent can or ever is given. What might be the reason the phrase “feeble minded” made its way into the sentence and why might it be unclear to those interpreting the law whether or not it covered all or just “feeble minded” rape victims? If I were to venture a guess, I would say that eugenic reasoning is likely responsible for the legal phrasing the judges had such difficulty interpreting.
An article posted to the St. Albert Gazette explains how the family of a 13-year old foster child, who died shortly after leaving foster care, is seeking funding and payments for a lawyer to represent them in an inquiry into her death. The inquiry is meant to shed light on the girl’s death, with the aim of preventing further foster-care related injury or death.
Samantha Martin died in December 2006 after collapsing from an apparent heart attack. The inquiry is supposed to determine what caused the girl’s cardiac arrest.
Martin lived in foster care for most of her life; she was born with a rare chromosomal disorder and the government insisted the Martin family place her there to receive the necessary medical supports.
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, Galtonintroduced 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
Oakland-based filmmaker Regan Brashear is launching her film FIXED: The Science / Fiction of Human Enhancement and is running a Kickstarter campaign to help with funding for the film’s clean-up. You can start with donations of $1 and up–details about the campaign and film here. The campaign runs until 9.03am EDT, August 31, so donate NOW. A brief excerpt from the site:
What’s the film about? What does “disabled” mean when a man with no legs can run faster than many Olympic sprinters? With prenatal screening able to predict hundreds of probable conditions, who should determine what kind of people get to be born? If you could augment your body’s abilities in any way imaginable, what would you do and why? From pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to neural implants and bionic limbs, researchers around the world are hard at work developing a myriad of technologies to fix or enhance the human body, but what does it mean to design “better humans” and do we want to? FIXED follows three remarkable people: Continue reading →
Last night, courtesy of the BBC, we could watch a man being killed – voluntarily. The much-heralded climax of the documentary Choosing to Die was of 71-year-old Peter Smedley being administered a lethal dose of Nembutal helped down with a praline chocolate (this was in Switzerland, after all). In his comments to accompany Smedley’s death, the presenter, Sir Terry Pratchett, declared: “This has been a happy event.”
Below is a press release put out yesterday by the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and the Disabled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN). The two organizations will intervene on a case before the Supreme Court that could potentially have serious impacts on the rights of women generally and those of disabled women specifically.
There are several important issues that are going to have to be considered in the case, particularly the systemic barriers to employment face by disabled people and disabled women in particular and the inherently problematic, and all too frequent, attempts to judge the abilities or lack of abilities of a person based on brief, and not necessarily representative, observations of that person.
I hope the Supreme Court will do the right thing and overturn the lower courts decision. Read the full press release below.
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.
Many stories like this (this one from the Mirror; h/t Velvet Martin) out there. Does anyone know the legislative basis for these interventions in the UK? One prong in many pieces of eugenics legislation was “incapable of parenting”–the other was “prospect of transmission of mental defectiveness”. So this makes you wonder how far we are from that eugenic past.
On Mother’s Day.. the heart warming story of a girl who had to fight for the right to bring up her own child
Strolling along the beach, her young son in her arms, Kerry McDougall prepares for the perfect Mother’s Day – one that last year she could only dream of.
For 12 months ago tiny Ben was in care and Kerry’s life was in tatters – after social workers deemed her both too stupid to look after her son AND not even bright enough to wed her fiancé Mark.
Ben was just three days old when social workers marched into the maternity ward where Kerry was breastfeeding and took him away.
It was the start of a long, heartbreaking battle to become a proper family.
With a love of travelling, Lakhani’s dream has been to take his son to Disneyland. In June, a family court judge agreed Lakhani could take his son on the trip. But there was a condition – one that Lakhani was unaware of.
At the time, two adult family friends, who live in California, were going to meet with Lakhani and his son at Disneyland. However, these friends have since changed their plans, prompting Lakhani’s ex-wife to go back to court. She says Lakhani cannot properly protect their son at the amusement park without his sight.
This is the first time his blindness has been an issue when caring for their son.
The judge ruled that Lakhani can only take his son to Disneyland if someone of sight accompanied him.