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Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada’s Nasty Little Secret and I attended Lethbridge’s WOTS

with 2 comments

Lethbridge’s Word on the Street Festival  proved that a small city can successfully put together and event usually found only in larger cities. There were a few first year glitches and oversights, but overall, WOTS was fantastic for Alberta authors and it was wonderful promotion for the City of Lethbridge.

I loved reading from Eugenics and the Firewall  and participating in the “Getting into Writing” panel.A

Above, is a picture of some of the books, including Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada’s Nasty Little Secret, that were on sale at the University of Lethbridge Bookstore WOTS tent. (If you’re in Southern Alberta, and would like a copy of Eugenics and the Firewall, please drop by the University of Lethbridge bookstore. You’ll also find it in Chapters, McNally Robinson, Audreys, the U of T Bookstore, and dozens more independent and university bookstores throughout Canada.

You can also borrow Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada’s Nasty Little Secret from a local public library,  including the Lethbridge Public Library, The Edmonton Public Library, University of Manitoba libraries, The University of Saskatchewan Library, Toronto Public Library Queen’s University Library, and the University of Calgary Library.  Here’s a  partial listing of some of the libraries Eugenics and the Firewall is available in throughout Canada and around the world.


2 Responses

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  1. Dear Jane, First, I greatly admired your book on Eugenics – it’s timely and it’s a part of Canadian history for too long swept under the table. I enjoyed reading your blogs on Gary Bauslaugh (though a year late!) I havent read his book on Latimer but now plan to. My only query re his ‘compassion’ and ‘mercy’ killing is that while old or very ill people may justifiably request euthanasia & maybe should be granted their wish, Latimer’s daughter was not asked if she wanted to be put out of her misery. It was forced on her. Now if she’d requested to be put to death, that would count as ‘mercy killing’, out of compassion. On the other hand, who are we to judge? Parents of handicapped children often live in a special sort of isolated world, and it’s tough, believe me.
    I am a parent of a developmentally challenged and autistic son now aged 35. I refused amniocentesis while pregnant (I was an older mother-to-be) and refused institutionalization when our son was ONLY FOUR! But I was in an economic situation where I was able to have such a luxury. By the way, neither the medical profession, nor the Anglican Church (as far as I recall no longer being an Anglican), nor the Canadian public stirs a hair about amniocentesis which is used primarily to detect Down’s syndrome with the result of aborting (sucking it out via a vacuum) the fetus. Is not that eugenics in naked action for the convenience of the parents and the state? (Providing services for developmentally challenged children & adults is expensive for the taxpayers, a fact often referred to by Canadian eugenicists.)
    Jane, I have written a book – a true story re eugenics focussing on Ontario – that I think will interest you. It’s about how 2 generations of a family in the slums of Toronto – the Lumsdens – labelled “feeble-minded” were put away in the oldest institution in Canada, in Orillia, Ontario – variously called the Asylum for Idiots and Feeble-Minded, Ontario Hospital School, and, Huronia Regional Centre. My book: And Neither Have I Wings To Fly: Labelled and Locked Up in Canada’s Oldest Institution. Innana Publications, York University. Coming out at end of May/beginning of June 2012. Please see my web-site – http://www.thelmawheatley.com – it’s not fully set up yet but you’ll get the gist of my books. I think we have a lot in common. I’d be delighted to hear from you.
    Keep writing.
    I like the title of your projected book on being homeless. Another winner.
    Thelma Wheatley. Twheatley@execulink.com.

    Thelma Wheatley

    March 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    • You make a very good point, re Latimer. His daughter had no say in the matter. Most people don’t realize that it was eugenicists who came up with idea of ‘mercy killing’ of the ‘feeble-minded’ and ‘unfit.’ (Often the very young and the very old. And ‘voluntary’ eugenics programs intended to improve the quality of life of the poor, the sick, the disabled, or the old rarely remain voluntary. They didn’t in NAZI Germany, the Southern US or Alberta. It’s a taboo subject, though.)

      As an Anglican, I can tell you that the issue may not be a hot one at Diocesian meetings, at the moment, but individually many Anglicans are uncomfortable with the issue of euthanasia, abortion, and genetic testing. I think that their discomfort is shared by a huge cross-section of society. But we don’t want to talk about these issues for fear of clearing the room or being branded backward or even ‘anti-woman.’ Yet, clearly, the rationale for supprt of abortion for genetic or economic reasons, euthanasia, and almost forced genetic testing fetuses, is clearly to save public money on social services, child care, and medical care. Not sure how that is good for women. Or why the woman’s movement is still being taken in by this line. (Now that stirs the worms, doesn’t it?)

      Your case in Ontario is interesting. Ontario, like every jurisidiction, except BC and Alberta, in the British Empire (Commonwealth) had no sexual sterilization act or eugenics board. In Ontario, sterilizations were often done under the table or with family support. I suspect that province may have stood in as parent in the case of its wards as the Prov. of Alberta did. (Segregating the ‘unfit’ (including the deaf, blind, mentally ill, in asylums was meant to prevent them from contaminating society.)

      The Alberta Hospital in Ponoka and Red Deer training school were initially meant to be refuges. But the costs of maintaining them was tough for what was then the poorest province in Canada. I suspect that even wealthy Ontario (in those days) had trouble maintaining the Ontario Hospital and Huronia Regional Centre.

      It would be a good thing is the public did stir a hair and ask some hard questions. Or at least think about where all this is taking us. Good luck with your book.And congratulations on finishing it. Hope it sparks more debate. I hope you and your son are both doing well.

      Thanks for your kind comments about Eugenics and the Firewall.


      March 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

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