“Human Wreckage from Foreign Lands”: A Study of the Ethnic Victims of the Alberta Sterilization Act


Excerpt from Keith's Article, Page 81:

"Between 1928 and 1972, the Alberta Eugenics Board ordered an estimated 2,822 people sterilized under the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act.1 The government-appointed Eugenics Board had labelled these people as ‘feeble-minded,’ or ‘mentally-defective,’ and decided that they were unfit to have children. The Act was an outcome of the Canadian eugenics movement, which became popular in the late nineteenth-century and was built on the foundations of Social Darwinism and the genetic theories put forth by Francis Galton.2 Eugenics is based on the belief that controlling reproduction can lead to the betterment of a race. Eugenicists target particular groups or individuals that they perceive as having desirable or undesirable qualities, a concept sometimes described as “positive” and “negative” eugenics. In order to determine to what degree ethnicity was an underlying factor in the sterilization of ‘mentally-defective’ patients, I will examine the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act (herein referred to as “the Act”). I argue that, although the Act did not primarily target recent immigrants, the treatment of sterilization candidates did vary according to ethnic background. This ethnic discrimination was the product of nativist attitudes towards cultural differences, which were central to both the Canadian eugenics movement and the creation of the Act. Nativism refers to the idea that the interests of ‘native’ inhabitants should take precedence over those of recent immigrants. To develop this argument, I discuss the nativist aspect of the Canadian eugenics movement, outline the Act, and finally investigate the ethnic demographics of the sterilization candidates." (81).

Keith's article primarily addresses sterilization efforts targeted at Eastern Europeans, however, Keith also comments on the disproportionate representation of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis targeted by the Sterilization Act and the Sterilization board.


Publication Information

Keith, Ellen. "Human Wreckage from Foreign Lands - A Study of Ethnic Victims of the Alberta Sterilization Act." Constellations 2, no. 2 (2011): 81-89.

Keith, Ellen
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