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Sterilization issue makes first resolution at
By Roderick Benns
Three resolutions were passed at the Canadian Association
for Community Living (CACL) annual conference in Ontario last month,
and the controversial issue of sterilization headed the list.
Coming on the heels of the recent well-publicized
Alberta case involving the castration of a 21-year old man by his mother,
the CACL resolved that "neither under the authority of any other person
nor of the court can consent be given for the non-therapeutic sterilization
of any person in the absence of consent by the person himself or herself."
This principle was part of the 1986 Supreme Court
of Canada decision involving a Prince Edward Island mother who wanted
her daughter, who has an intellectual disability, sterilized. In the
case of 'Eve,' the high court ruled that the procedure was only allowed
for a person's mental or physical health. The questionable advantages
of the procedure compared to the damage it caused meant "it can never
safely be determined that such a procedure is for the benefit of the
person," the court said at the time.
CACL further resolved that "the legal protection
of fundamental human rights ensured by the Eve decision not be violated,
and that no parent, substitute decision maker or practitioner can repeat
actions such as that of the illegal, non-surgical castration of a 21-year
old man at the request of his mother
The Alberta womanSandra Crocketttook
her son for the operation because she said she was worried that he was
becoming sexually aggressive. Legally blind, with an intellectual disability,
her son is now 26 and the family lives in New Brunswick. Crockett reported
that said she didn't want him to end up in an institution because he
attacked someone, and she didn't want him to father children. She and
the doctors said he also had some pain in his testicles at the time.
But the lawsuit, initiated by the province's public guardian, was settled
out of court. The surgeon who performed the castration ended up paying
the public guardian and trustee's client (her son) about $85,000.
At the height of the eugenics movement of the 20th
century, Alberta and B.C. had legislation that allowed for the sterilization
of people it labelled "mental defectives." The government of Alberta,
where the law was in place from 1928 to 1972, has since paid out more
than $80 million in compensation to thousands of people. British Columbia
had a similar law in place from 1933 to 1973.
The CACL also passed two other unrelated resolutions.
They resolved that the organization create leadership in building a
'National Coalition of Family Organizations,' in collaboration with
provinces and territories, to advance a pan-Canadian public policy agenda
on supporting individuals and families."
They also resolved that CACL enter into discussions
with provincial ACLs to create a position statement on fetal alcohol
syndrome disorder (FASD). They will also explore the most appropriate
role for the ACLs to play in support of individuals and families affected
(This article is reprinted with permission from
Community Living at www.acl.on.ca, and is reprinted here with permission.)
Self-advocacy action group's video carries message
Members of the Self-Advocacy Action Group gathered
with the University of Saskatchewan community for the official premiere
of Choices: Empowerment for Living. The video was the brainchild
of the group to carry the message about the importance of self-determination
in how and where someone lives.
Grace Kroeker, facilitator for the group, said the
premiere followed a solid year of hard work that ensured members of
the self-advocacy group were making the decisions from the initial concept
all the way through the development of the video. Initial discussions
raised the issue that people with intellectual disability do not have
an opportunity to choose with whom and where they will live. People
talked about their experiences of being "placed" without any
choice and of having too much support or not enough.
Producer/director David Danyluk of the Division
of Media and Technology at the University of Saskatchewan, told members
of the group it was "an honour to work on this project with you. I hope
this is what you want."
Bill Hogarth has lived in Valley View Centre, Moose
Jaw, for 42 years. He appears in the video and talks about his dream
to leave the institution and live in the community. An attempt several
years ago "didn't work out," he said, and hopes that this time "I have
someone there with me just in case something goes wrong."
"It's taken me a long time just to behave myself
like they told me to do and I'll get out again," Hogarth said. "I will
be able to take care of my own money. I will be able to go shopping
by myself because right now I can't do that. I have epilepsy, so even
when I take a bath, someone has to watch me." His planned move to Regina
will put him closer to his brother. He calls it "a new beginning."
Funding for the video came in large part from the
Grassroots Alliance. Members of the Alliance who attended the premiere
included Dale Ebert, SACL president, Judy McLaughlin, SACL vice-president
and other Association staff and volunteers, and Jamie Ryan of the Saskatchewan
Association of Rehabilitation Centres. In his comments, Ryan offered
a quote by Martin Luther King that describes the work put in by members
of the self-advocacy group and their support people over the past year.
"Although social change cannot come overnight, we
must always work as if it were a possiblity in the morning."
Ebert said the video will be a valuable tool that
"will help trigger in the minds of people responsible for housing and
the development of new residential services, that there is a need for
those people to talk to those for whom that housing is intended. The
message of the video speaks to a need across the country," he said,
and added that getting the opinions of people who will use a service
"The process used to make this video from original
idea, through production, distribution and use, is as importance as
the finished product," says Kroeker. "Self-advocates have directed the
process. They chose the issue of homes of choice as being critical to
their survival as self-determining people. We have produced a video
that will inspire and encourage people with an intellectual disability
to make a move."
The video will be used as part of an education session
for service providers, family members and self-advocates. It will also
be available to professors and lecturers for university classes in,
for example, sociology.
(The video is available on loan from the SACL's
Resource Centre or for purchase from DMT, University of Saskatchewan.
Contact Deb Edighoffer, Media Library, ph: (306) 966-4261; email: [email protected]).