Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret featured in Prairie Books Now!

Paula Kirman interviewed me recently for her article: "A not so proud history." The interview appears in the Fall Winter 2010 issue of Prairie Books Now! As I told Paula, "History isn't about the past at all. It's about charting a future in which our children are not unwitting victims of our mistakes.``

The Province of Alberta`s Eugenics Board existed in the context of a populist political culture that viewed political dissent as something nearing treachery (eg: William Aberhart`s Accurate News and Information Act and the Manning government`s lawsuit against the IODE over its publication of criticisms of Alberta Social Services). That culture helped political `leaders` to create a dual sense of self-righteousness and victimization among the electorate.

As I tell Prairie Books Now!:

``The political culture Aberhart created, and Ernest Manning perfected, is one of extreme passivity and a pack mentality. It is still largely with us....It`s a culture that lets politicians get away from the hard questions by invoking `Western Alienation` or Aberhart`s dream of oil riches and wealth on earth for the righteous. Of course we are not the only province in Canada where this happens, but the historical context is unique here. It`s based on the warping of that progressive vision that birthed the province.``

Unfortunately, the latest issue of Prairie Books Now! is not on-line. (You can pick up a copies at bookstores throughout western Canada.

A few more quotes from Paula`s article:

"The topic of eugenics in Alberta proved to be very sobering for Harris-Zsovan, who describes her main emotion while working on the book as dismay."

"Harris-Zsovan finds that there are connections between past policies and the current Alberta political landscape."

"While Eugenics and the Firewall is often shocking in what it reveals, there is also an underlying feeling of hope that we can learn from history"

"History is not just shabby stories. Scandals are not best left buried. If we don't come to terms with our ancestors' mistakes, we will make the same ones," Harris-Zsovan says.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Democratic Deficit: Holdover from Alberta's Eugenics Past?

27th November, 2010, Greg Weadick, MLA for Lethbridge West, told the Lethbridge Herald that he favours more local imput from the local health advisory councils. (Apparently, the one in Lethbridge doesn't hold many public meetings.) He added that he'll also be scheduling meetings to get citizen input.

A good start, maybe.

But Weadick and the rest of the Tory caucus know, the Alberta Health Services Superboard is not bound to take the advice of local advisory committees. And Weadick stopped short of advocating a return to the our province's political tradition of electing local hospital board trustees.

Why? The tradition of electing local hospital trustees (and education trustees, too) goes back to the roots of the province.

Is the Tory Caucus opposed to any citizen input they cannot control? And why do Albertans put up with the erosion of our democratic traditions?

Surely, the province's dark past, as home to the worst eugenics sterilization scandal in the British Empire (carried out at the bidding of an non-elected, out of control band of government appointees who did not even bother to follow the flawed dictates of Sexual Sterilization Act), suggests that we need more accountability to the electorate in our health system, not less.

If we aren't careful, the province's politicians will shut out the electorate when it comes to education, too. I predict that our local school boards will soon become the plaything of mandarins in Edmonton, too -- unless we stand up and say 'no'.

Let's reverse the trend.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eugenics and the Firewall: What's the book about? (The back page)

Eugenics and the Firewall: What's the book about?
It’s a dirty little secret the heirs to Alberta’s populist legacy don’t want Canadians to talk about.

In 1928 the non-partisan United Farmers of Alberta passed the first Sexual Sterilization Act. The UFA’s successor, the Social Credit party, led by a radio-evangelist William Aberhart, and later by his protégé Ernest Manning, removed the need to obtain consent to sterilize “mental defectives” or Huntington’s Chorea patients with dementia.

Between 1928 and 1972 nearly three thousand citizens were sterilized, lied to, experimented on, and subjected to daily abuse at the hands of provincial staff in Alberta. Most Albertans have forgotten the victims whose names made headlines in the 1990s, and politicians and pundits have shown little empathy for the victims.

The Eugenics Board horror story has largely been buried in Canada’s mainstream national media. Conservative bloggers and columnists in Canada continue to blame the Liberals and CCF for Canada’s barbaric eugenics program. The tar sands, oil royalties, health care budgets, environmental policies, and making sure the province’s interests remain high on the federal agenda top the provincial headlines.

But the questions must be answered: How did a province that claims “strong and free” as its motto deny basic freedoms to so many of its own citizens? Why does the extent of Alberta’s eugenics past and its link to the UFA/Social Credit legacy remain the unacknowledged moral blind spots in Canadian politics?

It’s time to set the record straight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Twin Reduction: Eugenic thinking in Action

It seems that some couples, deciding that career, money and and class status is more important than a human life, now threaten the lives of their 'extra' twins. This is eugenics thinking in action in 2010.

I would like to ask the families, who put both twins at risk by opting for this procedure, a question: Does getting rid of an extra twin because it might slow down your materialistic, upper middle class lifestyle mean that you think not having money and status is a fate worse than death?

Surely there are far worse things than slowing down your career, penny pinching (or even outright poverty). Those things include losing your humanity and equating 'quality of life' with money, career, and social status.

Thanks Tom Blackwell from the National Post for wrting this article and alerting the Canadian public in When is One Twin too Many?"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What this blog will focus on

This blog should be up by Monday. It will focus on Eugenics in Canada and around the world.

I'll also provide regular updates about my book: Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret. This book is published by J.Gordon Shillingford Publishing and Distributed by the University of Toronto Press. and represented by the Literary Press Group of Canada. It's also available on-line and in bookstores. (We are working to correct the messed up listings online and on bookstore computers. In the meantime: head over to Vision of Canada blog to find out more

Or, send me a message on google.