Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Alberta & Eugenics

Alberta is celebrating its 100th year as a Province, so naturally there is a lot of discussion around about Alberta History. Mostly its silly stuff about cowboys. It is not widely known that from 1919 until 1972 Alberta had a Eugenics law. This law allowed the Government to sterilize people without their consent if they deemed them to be inferior in some manner. This was usually applied to people (wards of the state) who had something like Down's Syndrome, but many others were sterilized also, some merely because they had low IQ's or behavioural problems.

Peter Lougheed repealed the law in 1972 when the Progressive Conservatives swept to power ending 30 or so years of Social Credit Government. In the 1990's Ralph Klein's government began paying out damages to people who had been sterilized without consent. Of course Klein's government fought long and hard not to pay anything. In the end the victims got very little in return for having their reproductive ability taken away by a government they had no means to resist.

To be fair, many governments practiced eugenics in the 1920's and 1930's but most stopped after the ideas of the eugenics movement were discredited, and the German Nazis showed the danger of this type of thinking. I've always wondered why Alberta kept up the practice into the 1970's. Probably because the Social Credit movement was anti-intellectual and anti-science. This leads to a more general question: What science is the government currently resisting or distorting that may lead to a future disaster?

For further reading, Dr. Jana Grekal, a UofA Sociology Professor did her Doctoral Research on Eugenics in Alberta. You can read about her research here. Please recommend this post

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