Friday, March 18, 2016

Shaming the Wise

I received the sad news, yesterday morning, of Leilani Marietta (O'Malley) Muir passing away on March 12th. I don’t pay too much attention to the news, so I received this news a couple of days late from a Facebook friend in the United States. Leilani was a fellow Albertan, a human rights advocate, and was around the same age as my parents. She was also institutionalized at the age of 11 at what was called the Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives, later known as the Michener Centre, in the city my parents first met. This is one of many such institutions known for eugenic practices, such as involuntary sterilization, of which Leilani was a victim.

Why was this champion of human rights sterilized? Two years after being institutionalized, she was “diagnosed” as a “moron” and the Eugenics Board approved her sterilization. It was not until after she was married that she found out what they actually did to her. They had told her she was having her appendix removed.

Some may be surprised that the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta wasn’t repealed until 1972, but many may be wondering how a person could be diagnosed as a moron. What is a moron?