Truth & Reconciliation Commission – Edmonton March 27 – 30, 2014

For 116 years, thousands of Aboriginal children in Alberta were sent to Indian Residential Schools funded by the federal government and run by the churches. They were taken from their families and communities in order to be stripped of language, cultural identity and traditions.

Canada’s attempt to wipe out Aboriginal cultures failed. But it left an urgent need for reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

There were more Indian Residential Schools in Alberta than in any other province. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) is holding its Alberta National Event in Edmonton this year.

Come and share your truth about the schools and their legacy. Witness and celebrate the resilience of Aboriginal cultures.
(excerpt from TRC.ca)

Alberta National Event – March 27 – 30, 2014 will be held in Edmonton at the Shaw Conference Centre 9797 Jasper Avenue. No registration needed to attend. Those wishing to provide a statement to the Commission may register onsite during the event.

You can download the program click here

On Thursday March 20 from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm at the University of Alberta, Lister Centre, Maple Leaf Room
Understanding the TRC: Exploring Reconciliation, Intergenerational Trauma, and Indigenous Resistance featuring:

Commissioner Dr. Wilton Littlechild
Dr. Rebecca Sockbeson
Dr. Ian Mosby
James Daschuk
Dr. Keavy Martin
Tanya Kappo
Moderated by Jodi Stonehouse

Reception 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm – Tea, bannock and berries. Event is free.

Gala Reading featuring:
Marilyn Dumont
Daniel Heath Justice
Eden Robinson
Gregory Scofield
Anna Marie Sewell
Richard Van Camp

Friday, March 21 from 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm in Humanities Centre L-1 (111th Street and Saskatchewan Drive)
Giveaways. Books for sale. Free Admission

You find this information and links to campus maps here

What happens when your son tells you he’s really a girl? Inside the families embracing the new world of gender variance

Some medical professionals see gender variance as a natural characteristic of human diversity, similar to sexual preference, that should be accepted and even celebrated. An article in Macleans (Jan 6, 2014) explores the lives of supportive families and their trans and gender variant children..

The Public Health Agency of Canada published comprehensive recommendations in 2010 for schools to support gender-variant students and several provincial governments have added “gender expression” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination. The tides may be turning but the need for education is high. The negative judgement of trans individuals suggests there is a 17% higher risk for suicide and even higher risks for being bullied by others.

The Macleans article also has a short video embedded within and pictures throughout, providing a glimpse into the daily lives of trans and gender-variant children and their families. This is an excellent introduction and movement towards educating the public and advancing the needs of trans youth – which is a natural characteristic of human variation.

You can read the article here: http://www2.macleans.ca/2014/01/13/what-happens-when-your-son-tells-you-hes-really-a-girl/

 

In the United States the National Gay and Lesbian Task Forces and the National Center for Transgender Equality conducted a survey of 6,450 trans and gender non-conforming individuals from all 50 states. This study was the first of its kind and provides us with a clear picture of what needs to change in order to stop the injustice in their lives..

Discrimination against trans and gender variant individuals provides critical data for policymakers, community activists and legal advocates to confront the appalling realities. Respondents experience higher levels of poverty and a staggering 45% of those survey reported attempting suicide. Harassment and discrimination in education was reported at alarmingly high rates and include physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%). Harassment was so severe that it led to almost 15% to leave school in K-12 settings or in higher education..

Abuse by Police, discrimination in health care and public accommodations, employment discrimination and economic insecurity, as well as housing discrimination, barriers to receiving updated documents (identification and personal records). The 6,450 individuals all reported that family acceptance was of great importance, although the majority reported experiencing family rejection. Despite all of the harassment, mistreatment, discrimination and violence faced by trans individuals the study demonstrates their determination, resourcefulness and perseverance. This report is a call to action for all of us, especially for those who pass laws and write policies. Inaction is a form of violence that will negatively affect trans and gender variant people. Take up the call for human rights for transgender, transsexual, trans, and gender variant people and confront the patterns of abuse and injustice. Let’s learn (and teach) the values of human variation to our children, to each other and let’s learn more ourselves!.

You can access the full report titled “Injustice at every Turn” here: http://www.TheTaskForce.org or here: wwww.TransEquality.org. You can also get more information about the survey at: http://www.EndTransDiscrimination.org

Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, & Brave New Worlds

Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, & Brave New Worlds. A public symposium on the history and ongoing implications of eugenics ideologies and practices for people with disabilities.
Why do these issues matter? How can we address them in teaching and pedagogy, in policy and activism, and in art?

On November 1, 2013 at San Francisco State University, Seven Hill Conference Center from 9:00 am – 8:00 pm.
The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada is co-sponsoring a conference, dinner and reception plus the screening of FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. Conference organizers include: Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, and the Center for Genetics and Society.

Registration is free:  geneticsandsociety.org/futurepast

Future Past is the result of a cross-national collaboration among advocates and academics interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the long and tangled relationship between disability and eugenics, and the contemporary implications of genetic technologies to the lives and futures of people with disabilities.

Program – November 1, 2013

9:00 – 9:15: Welcome

  • Provost Sue Rossier, San Francisco State University
  • Catherine Kudlick, Director, Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability

9:15 – 9:30: Table Introductions

9:30 – 11:30: What? Eugenics and Disability: Past and Present

Many people are unaware of the history of eugenics movements in North America, yet they are disturbingly relevant today.

Presenters:

  • Alexandra Minna Stern (moderator), Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Culture, and History at the University of Michigan.
  • Marcy Darnovsky, Center for Genetics and Society
  • Glenn SInclair, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada
  • Nicola Fairbrother, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada

Table Discussions

11:30 – 12:30 : Lunch

12:30 – 2:30: So What? The Consequences of Misremembering Eugenics

What are the social and ethical consequences of omitting eugenics from historical memory or misrepresenting it? What is the price of the pursuit of “human betterment” for reproductive and disability justice?

Presenters:

  • Marsha Saxton (moderator), World Institute on Disability
  • Rob WIlson, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, University of Alberta
  • Troy Duster, Warren Institute for Law and Society Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Emory University

Table Discussions

2:30 – 3:00: Break

3:00 – 5:00: Now What? Looking Ahead to Brave New Worlds

What is being done – and what can be done – to increase public and student understanding of the legacies of eugenics through teaching, activism and art?

Presenters:

  • Milton Reynolds (moderator), Facing History and Ourselves
  • Gregor Wolbring, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, University of Calgary
  • Kate Wiley, Lick-Wilmerding High School
  • Patricia Berne, Sins Invalid

Table Discussions

5:00 – 6:30: Dinner and Reception

6:30 – 8:00 Sneak-preview screening

FIXED: The Science/FIction of Human Enhancement

Producer/DIrector Regan Brashear will answer questions

 Future Past Nov 1

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2013 ~ Oct 16 – Oct 22, 2013

Please join us in Edmonton at the University of Alberta for a series of events throughout Wednesday October 16 to Tuesday October 22, 2013 that mark:

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2013 ~ Oct 16 – Oct 22, 2013

Wednesday Oct 16 – Rob Wilson, University of Alberta, Standpoint Eugenics.  Brown-bag lunch co-sponsored with the Dept. of Educational Policy Studies.  Noon-1:30pm, 7-102 Education North.

Thursday Oct 17 – Eugenics and Indigenous Perspectives.  Discussion panel co-sponsored with the Faculty of Native Studies.  Panelists: Tracy Bear, Joanne Faulkner, Jerry Kachur, Noon-1:00pm, 2-06 Pembina Hall.

Friday Oct 18 – 1) Persons’ Day Panel: Feminism, Motherhood and Eugenics: Historical Perspectives. Panelists: Wendy Kline, University of Cincinnati, Erika Dyck, University of Saskatchewan, and Molly Ladd-Taylor, York University. Noon – 1:00 pm, Henderson Hall, Rutherford South. Wheelchair accessible. 2) Wendy Kline, University of Cincinnati, “The Little Manual that Started a Revolution: How Midwifery Became a Hippie Practice”, 3:30 – 5.00pm, Assiniboia 2-02A, co-sponsored with the Departments of History and Classics, and Women’s and Gender Studies. 3) FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. A documentary by Regan Brashear www.fixedthemovie.com, co-sponsored with the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre. Telus Centre 150.  Doors at 6:30 pm, film at 7:00 pm. Q&A with Dr. Gregor Wolbring (who is featured in the film) following the film. Wheelchair accessible and closed captioned.

Saturday Oct 19 – Team Meeting, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada.  2-02A Assiniboia Hall (9:00 am – 4:30 pm) Lunch provided; please RSVP to moyra@ualberta.ca by Noon Oct 16th.

Monday Oct 21 – 1) Joanne Faulkner, University of New South Wales, The Politics of Childhood and Community Identity.  Noon – 1:00 pm in 7-152 Education North.  Co-sponsored by the Departments of Educational Policy Studies and Human Ecology.  2) World Premiere “Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told” 7:00 pm – 9:15 pm Metro Cinema at the Garneau, 8712 – 109 Street NW, Edmonton. Trailer: http://youtu.be/QoM12GAJm8I; closed captioned and ASL interpretation; wheelchair access through the alley entrance.  Please sign up in advance at Facebook to help us with numbers!

Tuesday Oct 22 – 1) Joanne Faulkner, University of New South Wales, The Coming Postcolonial Community: Political Ontology of Aboriginal Childhood in Bringing Them Home.  4.00 – 5.30pm in Assiniboia 2-02a.  Co-sponsored with the Departments of Philosophy and Sociology.  2) Difference and Diversity: An Evening of Performances.  Featuring CRIPSiE (formerly iDance), a reading by Leilani Muir, the art work of Nick Supina III, and much more.  Education North 4-104. Doors at 6:30 pm, performances at 7:00 pm.  Please sign up in advance via Facebook to help us with numbers!

ASL Interpretation can be arranged for events, please contact moyra@ualberta.ca prior to the event.

All Events are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

All events are at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.

Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told

Join us in Edmonton on Monday October 21, 2013 at the Metro Cinema at the Garneau for the world premiere of Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told. A series of unique short videos, survivors of Alberta’s eugenic era share their stories. What does eugenics mean now for a variety of people parenting, or considering parenting in contemporary Alberta?

Watch the trailer (at the end of this post!)

The ideas and practices aimed at improving “human breeding” known as eugenics were influential across North America in the first half of the 20th century. The Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta was law in the province from 1928 until 1972 and was aimed to prevent what it called the “multiplication of the evil by transmission of the disability to progeny”.

The province of Alberta occupies a special place in this history. First, it is the province in which the vast majority of eugenic sterilizations in Canada were performed (approximately 90%), with British Columbia being the only other province to pass involuntary sterilization legislation that was explicitly eugenic. Alberta’s eugenic sterilization program was vigorously implemented until the repeal of the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta in 1972. Secondly, it was against the Province of Alberta that Leilani Muir won a landmark legal case in 1996 for wrongful sterilization and confinement, a case that has helped to preserve a rich documentary basis for understanding the history of eugenics in Western Canada.

The typical grounds for eugenic sterilization were that a person’s undesirable physical or mental conditions were heritable, and that those persons would not make suitable parents. Central amongst those targeted by such eugenic practices were people with a variety of disabilities, especially (but not only) developmental disabilities. Yet many other marginalized groups— single mothers, First Nations and Métis people, eastern Europeans, and poor people—were also disproportionately represented amongst those subject to eugenic ideas and practices, such as sterilization. An understanding of why, and of how eugenics operated as it did in Western Canada, is relevant not only to the 3.6 million Canadians with a disability, but to all Canadians who embrace human diversity and strive to build inclusive communities.

Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told premieres at the Metro Cinema at the Garneau (8712 – 109 Street, Edmonton) on Monday October 21, 2013. Doors open at 6:30 pm and the film begins at 7:00 pm.

Join the film-makers, survivors, and other interviewees present for this world premiere!  Closed captioned (CC).  Sponsored by the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada www.eugenicsarchive.ca  FREE ADMISSION

The trailer: http://youtu.be/2NREI24ugT0

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2013 – whats planned so far

This year Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) will take place October 16 through October 22, 2013.

Our bi-annual Team Meeting will be held at the University of Alberta in Assiniboia Hall 2-02A (our regular room) on Saturday October 19th from 9:00 – 4:30 (time will be confirmed closer to the date). Please save the date and plan to attend.

We will also be holding an event on Friday October 18th to mark Person’s Day. Living Archives Team Member Dr. Joanne Faulkner from the University of New South Wales will be giving a talk along with other team members.

We are currently planning other events and talks with the Faculty of Native Studies and the Department of History at the University of Alberta throughout the week.

Sunday October 20 we will be showing FIXED, a movie that features Team member Dr. Gregor Wolbring. Gregor will be on hand following the film for discussion and questions. You can see a short trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84TaYi15vps
Location and time will be announced shortly!!

On Monday October 21, 2013 we will be presenting the premier of our interview videos in a short film presentation called: “Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told” . This will be held at Metro Cinema 8712 109 St, Edmonton. More details will be forth coming.

On Tuesday October 22, 2013 we will be holding An Evening of Performances (still working on the title) at the Arts-based Research Studio (4-104, Education North). CRIPSiE (formerly iDance) will be performing and Leilani Muir will be reading from her book. We have several artists that will be performing – one team member will be showing us her skills with hula hoops (yes that’s correct hula hoops!).  Rumor has it that a Belly Troupe made of up of all ages, sizes and abilities will be performing, but you will have to attend to find out if this is only a rumor. We have other performers who have expressed interest but are not finalized yet so more details will be announced soon.

If you plan to attend from out of town please contact Moyra. For those of you in Edmonton and planning on attending we need volunteers throughout the week, please contact Moyra: (moyra@ualberta.ca)

All events are FREE and OPEN to the PUBLIC. Save the dates and plan to attend! Bring your friends and families and spread the word. Posters will be distributed soon!

Judge approves man’s sterilization

It is the first time in England and Wales a court has sanctioned a man’s sterilization. A High Court judge has sanctioned the sterilization of a man “in his best interests” in a landmark legal ruling.
The 36-year-old, from the Midlands, has learning difficulties and already has a son, born in 2010, with his girlfriend.
Justice Eleanor King ruled that a vasectomy could take place after hearing that another child could cause the man :psychological harm.”
Experts said he was capable of sexual consent but did not have the capacity to make decisions about contraception.

The entire story was released today in the BBC News and can be viewed here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23721893

Sterilization Abuse in State Prisons: Time to Break with California’s Long Eugenic Patterns

An article by Professor Alex Stern, Living Archives Team Member, has been released today in The Huffington Post. The article, Sterilization Abuse in State Prisons: Time to Break With California’s Long Eugenic Patterns, reveals that at least 148 female prisoners in 2 California institutions were sterilized between 2006 and 2010. Tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.  Professor Stern’s work points to a discernible racial bias in the state’s sterilization and eugenics programs.

Corey G. Johnson of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) published on July 7th a detailed expose’ of unauthorized sterilizations of unwilling women in California prisons. Johnson’s excellent report brought international attention to a scandal that some activists and researchers have at least partially documented. It is important to note that, as the CIR report says, these sterilizations were illegal: Federal and state laws ban inmate sterilizations if federal funds are used, reflecting concerns that prisoners might feel pressured to comply. California used state funds instead, but since 1994, the procedure has required approval from top medical officials in Sacramento on a case-by-case basis. Yet no tubal ligation requests have come before the health care committee responsible for approving such restricted surgeries….

How could this happen?

Governor Gray Davis apologized in 2003 for California’s twentieth-century sterilizations, 20,000  procedures carried out under an explicitly eugenic law. He did so  quietly, via press release, and with no attempt to discover or  compensate the victims. (Recognized experts on American eugenics were  disappointed at the time: Paul Lombardo called it “premature” and Alexandra Minna Stern said it was “preemptive.”) Now his statement seems like a sham. The  fault is no longer the law, it’s the failure to follow the law.

North Carolina is still struggling to pass a budget that includes compensation for its victims of eugenic sterilization.  California has barely started the process of coming to terms with its  troubled history.

The California state prison system is overcrowded — Governor Jerry Brown is appealing a federal court order to release inmates — and conditions are so bad that 30,000 are on  hunger strike. If this report about sterilization helps to usher in a  period of genuine reform, that would be wonderful.

We would still need to educate all too many people, inside and  outside the jail system, about the moral and practical harm of modern  eugenics. Based on some of the remarks by state officials that Johnson  reported, and on some of the comments on coverage of his investigation,  people slide right back into eugenic ways of thinking.

Justice Now is an organization that works with women in prison. Their website has links to the CIR  reports and videos.

Professor Stern’s article in the Huffington Post raises awareness about eugenic practices and calls for a new era of human rights and the protection of vulnerable populations. Tony Platt co-authored the post. The original article can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-stern/sterilization-california-prisons_b_3631287.html

Let’s make a baby: Pushing the boundaries of conception – CBC Radio One

CBC Radio One is exploring the ethical ramifications of cutting-edge reproductive technologies, such as three parent in-vitro fertilization and post-menopausal pregnancy. From June 25, 2013 through August 29, 2013 on CBC Radio One, Tuesday at 7:30 pm and Thursday at 9:30 pm. All ten episodes are available online here: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2013/08/06/lets-make-a-baby-pushing-the-boundaries-of-conception/

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week 2012: Highlights Video

Well, at last, here it is.  Watch, enjoy, share, like.

Disability Rights V Quality Birth Rhetoric: The Construction of Disability in China

Interesting article on the construction of disability in China by Yee-Fui Ng (Sessional Lecturer and PhD Candidate, Monash University Law School). The abstract: This article explores the tension between the Chinese government’s strong engagement in disability rights and simultaneous focus on ‘quality births’, which results in the abortion of disabled foetuses. At a broader level, the author examines the politicised and cultural construction of disability in China by scrutinising how the ‘disabled’ are defined, administered, policed and governed in postsocialist China.

Continue reading

Forced Sterilization of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia: The WWDA submission

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:

Pride Week Panel on Reproductive Autonomy: Control of Sexuality

Here’s the poster for the upcoming panel, Reproductive Autonomy: Control of Sexuality that we’re hosting this Wednesday as part of the U of Alberta’s Pride Week.  The sesssion will feature Lise Gotell and Lane Mandlis as speakers, with Moyra Lang and Rob Wilson performing an interpretative dance (ok, perhaps not, … but we’ll do something useful … or at least will be there).  Please print and post, or distribute electronically.  Text only version included as well.

Pride Week Eugenics Panel Poster

Pride Week Eugenics Panel Text

Reproductive Autonomy: Control of Sexuality A Panel Discussion at Pride Week, University of Alberta

Wednesday March 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm in Education South Building at the University of Alberta the Living Archives on Eugenics is sponsoring a panel discussion featuring Professor Lise Gotell, Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies and Dr. Lane Mandlis, with Moyra Lang, and Professor Rob Wilson. ASL interpreting services will be offered at this event. Find us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/270019033131796/?fref=ts

Continue reading

Forced sterilization and disability in Australia

From a “better babies” competition, 1913

 

A Senate committee was recently established in Australia to review existing law and social policy concerning the sterilization of people with disabilities.

http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=clac_ctte/forced_sterilisation/info.htm

It seems that the inquiry is a response to public response (surprise? outrage?) to finding out that this practice continues in Australia under state and territorial legislation, and beyond it.

I suspect that the commission will find that Continue reading

What Sorts of People Should There Be? Do the Deceased Qualify?

When the Social Security Act was being written by Congress in 1939, no one thought that it might be possible to conceive a child posthumously.  In 2003, 18 months after the death of her husband, Karen Capato, a Florida resident, gave birth to his (her husband’s) twins (see article).  Robert, Karen’s husband, preserved his sperm in a sperm bank and gave written consent for its use by his wife before he died.

After her husband’s death, Karen applied for social security survivor benefits for the twins, but was denied because Florida laws recognize the eligibility of inheriting property only if the children who are to inherit property are named in a last will and testament.  This apparently also translates into an ineligibility of the twins to receive survivor benefits.  Robert could not have written the twins into his will because he did not know that they were going to exist at some point in the future.  Regardless of whether or not he discussed possibilities with his wife, he had no way of knowing the genders or the number of children he would father posthumously.

There is, to my mind, a question of whether Karen’s twins can really be called “survivors” since they did not literally survive their father.  And since it was Karen’s own choice to have them after her husband was already dead, perhaps counting on survivor benefits for aid was a tad premature and maybe even irresponsible.  These worries aside, however, it is interesting to live at a time when technological advances create such problems for the legal system.  After all, there is no question regarding biological parentage in this case.  Half of Robert’s DNA had been willingly transferred to a future generation.

While thinking about what sorts of people there should be, we think in terms of human variation.  However, we don’t always stop to consider why a variety of humans are “people” in the first place and what exactly makes them into “people.”  It would be difficult (and likely hopelessly so) to argue that a sperm cell is a person.  And yet, at the time of conception, that was all that remained of Robert.  I would think that it would be absurd to insist that Karen’s twins are essentially fatherless (it is true that their father is dead, but it is not the case that they have not been fathered).  It would be equally absurd to think of the doctors who prepared the fertilized egg as fathers (the medical team has no parental responsibilities toward the twins).  Although the twins were not a result of sexual intercourse between Robert and Karen, their conception is an instance of sexual reproduction (Robert’s and Karen’s genetic material is present in equal proportions in the resulting offspring).  So when asked who their parents are, the twins should refer to Robert and Karen and not just Karen or Karen and the hospital staff or even more absurdly to Karen and Robert’s sperm.  So did Robert father the twins?  I’d say he did!  If that’s the case, then does he qualify to be represented under the general question of what sorts of “people” there should be?  When we think about human variation, do the dead count?  I think they do!  If, by recognizing all kinds of people as “people,” we implicitly assume that we have duties toward them, then by making conceptual space for Robert and other deceased individuals (this also includes all of us at some point), we ought to recognize our duties toward the dead.  Perhaps that should inform the court’s decision in the case of the twins even if they are not literally “survivors.”

Tommy Douglas, young eugenicist

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

A Prequel to Gattaca?

The 1997 film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, portrays a futuristic society where babies are genetically engineered according to parental references.  The film features a society that consists almost exclusively of such artificially built individuals, with those who are born in the archaic, natural manner occupying the fringes of this society.  In order to protect the rights of what are referred to as the “valids” and thereby keep out the inferior “invalids,” each individual’s genetic material is constantly sampled and monitored.  Every person’s DNA is stored in a database, making multiple scans and random genetic sweeps in the workplace very efficient.  The story follows an “invalid” who has a dream of becoming an astronaut, a job open only to the genetically enhanced elite.

But my intention here is not to provide a synopsis of the film, which is very good and is certainly well worth the time it takes to watch.  Rather, I wanted to Continue reading

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

Parent Bullies: Homophobic Parents Protest Making Schools Safe for ‘Gay’ Kids

The Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District 11, located just north of Minneapolis, changed its policy of neutrality regarding questions of sexual orientation in favour of active affirmation of the dignity of all students regardless of their race, disability, or sexual orientation.  The New York Times reports:

 In response to conflicting pressures, Anoka-Hennepin officials had devised an unusual policy, directing teachers to remain neutral on any questions involving sexual orientation. But some teachers said that this hampered their ability to support gay students and that the overall climate was still hostile.  Last month, the district rescinded the neutrality policy in favor of a requirement to “affirm the dignity and self-worth of students” regardless of race, sexual orientation, disabilities or other factors. In addition, according to the new agreement, the district will strengthen measures to prevent, detect and punish bullying based on gender or sexual orientation, hire a full-time “harassment-prevention” official, bolster mental health counseling and identify harassment “hot spots” on the campuses of middle and high schools.

However, the Anoka-Hennepin Parents Action League (see their website here) complained that  “[m]aking schools safe for ‘gay’ kids means indoctrinating impressionable, young minds with homosexual propaganda” (see The New York Times).  The Parents Action League website states that

Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations.

Two things are quite striking here and both are examples of narrow-minded groups making students worse off by making themselves vocal.  First, and most obviously, the reported statement that “[m]aking schools safe for ‘gay’ kids means indoctrinating impressionable, young minds with homosexual propaganda” is outrageous in itself especially since it implies that what I take to mean the majority (that is, the heterosexual kids) are better served if ‘gay’ kids are not protected from bullying.  I am not sure whether the parents who agreed on such a formulation in their e-mail were appealing to some seriously misguided utilitarian calculation or whether they were just expressing their support for bullying based on sexual orientation?  Either way, the statement represents an unusually ugly thought!

Second, the statement on the Parents Action League website is a further testament to the dangers of giving narrow minded and aggressively fearful groups power over the education of future generations.  Statements like: “[t]eaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations” is reminiscent of burning the “Satanic” Harry Potter Books (see the 2001 BBC News Story).  All such practices will do (practices of withdrawing educational content from the curriculum and relegating it to the home), and I imagine that this is the hope of the Parents Action League, is to perpetuate discrimination based on sexual orientation precisely because homophobic parents seem to want to shield their children from any statements that confer dignity and self-worth upon homosexual students.

Parents should certainly play a greater supportive role in their children’s education.  Having had teaching experience at the secondary education level, I have seen my share of too much resentment toward teachers for the low achievement of their child and too little active participation in the child’s education.  Of course, this is not descriptive of all, or even most, parents.  However, participation in a child’s education should not come in the form of lobbying to truncate the educational experience of students.  If schools are to teach only the core subjects (math, social, science, and english), and remain silent (since being neutral in this context just means staying silent) on all other issues, then the quality of citizens leaving the school system will be poor indeed.

Fortunately, the Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District 11 went ahead with its new policy.  Perhaps once they eradicate bullying based on sexual orientation in their hallways, they will start to fight the source of bullying, namely the opinions and beliefs of homophobic parents!