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Module 37

Eugenics in Canada

Erika Dyck

This module introduces the history of eugenics in Canada. It challenges us to think critically about how ideas of population control and contraception shaped Canadian families over the 20th century. Although only British Columbia and Alberta formally legislated eugenics programs, most regions and many social, cultural, political, and religious groups discussed eugenics before World War II, making it part of the popular discourse about nation building. At its core, eugenics programs promised to restrict the reproduction of members of society deemed unworthy, whether due to hereditary problems, criminal tendencies, poor morals. The term feebleminded loosely covered all of these characteristics and over time fused elements of intelligence, disability, mental disease and criminality together as an unsavoury mixture of qualities leading to the degeneration of the race.

Primary sources:

  1. Document: Report Respecting Feeble Minded in Nova Scotia House of Assembly of the Province of Nova Scotia 1917, Part II, page 7
  2. Document: Sterilization of Mental Defectives V, Rev. Matthew Michel page 8
  3. Document: Blank consent and approval forms for sexual sterilization, Alberta Eugenics Board page 11
  4. Document Editorial: Birth Control, Canadian Medical Association Journal (1947) page 16 Document: Province Revokes Rights (March 11, 1998) page 18

Secondary sources:

1. The Creation of a Haven for “Human Thoroughbreds”: The Sterilization of the Feeble-Minded and the Mentally Ill in British Columbia, Angus McLaren page 20

2. Sterilization and Birth Control in the Shadow of Eugenics: Married, Middle-Class Women on the Prairies, Erika Dyck page 35

Introduction

List of Modules -- 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50