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Archive for January 2011

The Winnipeg Review

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Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada’s Nasty Little Secret appeared in the Winnipeg Review yesterday, 17 January 2011.


Eugenics and the Firewall Canada’s Nasty Little Secret featured in Red Deer Advocate

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Out this week: “Book Examines Alberta’s Dark Eugenics History,” in the Red Deer Advocate. Reporter, Lana Michelin really did a great job sorting out those dates, names and stats I gave her.

Written by janeharris(harris-zsovan)

January 9, 2011 at 12:48 am

Eugenics and the Firewall Canada’s Nasty Little Secret featured in Prairie Books Now

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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.

Written by janeharris(harris-zsovan)

January 9, 2011 at 12:47 am

More coverage in the Media (Winnipeg Free Press)

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Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada’s Nasty Little Secret was reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press 31 December 2010.

I enjoyed reading Ian Stewart’s article about my book. Eugenics and the Firewall:Canada’s Nasty Little Secret.But I should clarify a couple of things:

In 1921, the United Farmers of Alberta — a populist party that claimed to have no platform and to be non-partisan — were elected as the Government of Alberta. (They defeated the Alberta’s first political dynasty, the Liberals.) In 1928, the UFA government brought in a Sexual Sterilization Act to allow sterilization, by consent, of patients leaving mental hospitals.

The surprise election of the William Aberhart and his Socred followers, in 1935, that led to the weakening of consent provisions  in the Sexual Sterilization Act (eliminating the need for consent for several classes of Albertans) and allowed the Eugenics Board to travel the province seeking defectives in every nook and cranny. (Complaints about the eugenics board, foster care system, or social services were viewed with distain by the governing Social Credit MLAs. In fact, at one point, the Manning Government sued the IODE for publishing complaints about Alberta Social Services.)

The Social Credit led Government of Alberta allowed the Eugenics Board to break even the weak provisions and restrictions they left in their revamped Sexual Sterilization Act.

Both the Socreds and UFA governments claimed to be populist and progressive. Eugenics was considered a ‘progessive doctrine’ in the early 20th century.

2,822 Albertans were sterilized between 1928 and 1972, when the newly elected Progressive Conservatives, led by Peter Lougheed, rescinded the Sexual Sterlization Act. Another 1900 Albertans were approved for sterilization, but escaped the knife. Nobody’s quite sure where they went.

Written by janeharris(harris-zsovan)

January 9, 2011 at 12:41 am