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Dialect Features
Winter 2002

Sterilization issue makes first resolution at CACL conference

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 woman—Sandra Crockett—took 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 by FASD.

(This article is reprinted with permission from Community Living at, and is reprinted here with permission.)

Self-advocacy action group's video carries message of self-determination

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 is vital.

"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]).