Saturday, 12 November 2011 | The Current | Coming Up

Leilani Muir is the human face of the history I discuss in Eugenics and the Firewall. Please Listen and consider what not treating the poor, the sick, the foster child, the mentally and physicially disabled as valuable does to a society. And continues to do in Alberta where we have never really said sorry to the victims. Paying out $$$ is not really being | The Current | Coming Up

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrance Day Primer

As Canada's Remembrance Day 2011 stretches into evening, you may want to read "In Flanders Fields", posted here on Veterans Affairs Canada's site. Those wondering why Canadians (and the British) wear poppies to honour their war dead will enjoy this explanation from the Royal Canadian Legion. You can find the Official Photos from the Ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, along with the Governor General's Message on the Governor General of Canada's Website. The Remembrance extends outside the nation's capital with hundreds of Rembrance ceremonies in small towns, villages and large cities, on November 11 each year. Millions of Canadians Observe two minutes of silence is kept at the 11th hour, of the 11th day each year.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

My Upcoming History Talk with Alberta History Buffs

This and more at the Galt Museum in Lethbridge this fall:

DEC 07 Coal, Culture and Confederation with Jane Harris-Zsovan.
Three generations of Galt men –John, Sir Alexander and Elliott
– shared a poetic vision for a united and vibrant Canada.
Lethbridge, the only Canadian city co-founded by a
Father of Confederation,
is a living example of the Galts’ Canadian dream.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Listening (for a change) to the Opposite View

Last Wednesday, I attended a well-organized public philosophy lecture at the University of Lethbridge Author Gary Bauslaugh discussed the findings in his book, Robert Latimer: A Story of Justice and Mercy.

Given that I'm an Anglican who opposes euthanasia, and Mr. Bauslaugh, is a humanist who believes mercy-killing is a compassionate choice, it's not surprising we disagree on whether Robert Latimer acted properly in killing his daughter, Tracy.

I admit, I was annoyed when I left the lecture, feeling that Gary had dismissed opposing views, including my book Eugenics and the Firewall:Canada's Nasty Little Secret. Foolishly, I blew off a bit of steam in a private email outlining my perspective. Somehow, my email got posted online on a US website No excuses, I should know better than to write chatty, bitchy emails to friends who are journalists.

(I will add that the author of the post in question risks her own paycheque supporting my work, which challenges the political views of many of her readers. She does this because she believes Alberta's eugenics scandal should not be hidden to protect any political or religious view. Without Denyse, my book would never have been finished because I was convinced Alberta publishers wouldn't touch the subject and out of province royalty publishers wouldn't read a manuscript from Jane in Lethbridge, Alberta.)

Gary read the post. Off course he was upset, but to his credit, he emailed me directly with his concerns. (I appreciate that.) I am pleased to say this unfortunate situation started a dialogue between Gary Bauslaugh and me, that I think is quite productive. And, as a fellow writer, I will defend Gary's right to express his views even when they are the opposite of mine. That's the Canadian way!

So, here's what Gary had to say about his position:

Gary on Religious and Disabled Groups Impacting Public Policy:

"It is not that such groups ought not to have a voice, it is that voice should be kept in perspective by politicians and judges who may be influenced by the volume, rather than the quality, of comments they get on controversial issues. What I actually said was that there is a "need to ensure that certain advocacy groups, with particular axes to grind, and religious groups who abide by particular and arbitrary readings of religious scriptures, do not unduly affect public policy."

My point was that it is unfortunate if vocal minorities have undue influence on public policy, and that the solution to this was that other groups, representing the majority of opinion in Canada, need to speak up more, not that the minorities are to be somehow suppressed. My example related on the one hand to the Latimer SCC hearing, in which 11 groups hostile to Latimer spoke up, while only one spoke in his favour, while in fact about 75% of all Canadians are supportive of him. I related this as well to the evident difficulty of getting more rational policy developed on end-of-life issues, where similarly disproportionately negative, ideological and religious lobbying occurs whenever the issue comes up. I don't want to stop this lobbying, but to counterbalance it by hearing more from representatives of alternative views.

Gary took the time to add more explanation when I pressed him on the issue of allowing interest groups to intervene in court proceedings:

"I guess I have still not made my position clear. I am not objecting to having interveners of any sort, in fact I strongly support the right to participate in our democracy in that way. My comments are directed to getting more groups to respond to issues in that way, not fewer. My concern is that particularly vocal ones steal the stage, and more moderate and reasonable ones, often representing a large majority as in the Latimer case just don't bother. This creates a distorted picture of reality for legislators and the judiciary. The solution is not to try limit interveners but to encourage more liberal groups to provide a more realistic balance of views and to step in and argue for what they believe,"

Gary acknowledges that the audience may have interpreted his comments differently:

"That is what I was arguing for, although as Trudy pointed out in the session, my comments were open to misinterpretation. I have always stoutly defended the idea of pluralism, and freedom of expression, and strongly and frequently endorsed that position in the magazine I edited. This is a position I hold so strongly that I was probably not careful enough, for an audience that did not know me, in expressing my view on interveners in a way that could have been taken in a way not intended."

On Latimer's Conviction:
"The case is a simple straightforward one: he deliberately ended the life of his daughter, something that is classified as murder in our Criminal Code. This is a case that for which the only real defence was to urge the jury to refuse to convict in spite of his evident guilt, which is why I talked about the issue and problem of jury nullification in Canada. (Note: I was pleased to see that Gary welcomes those supportive and opposed to Latimer's stance to his site.)

Gary does not feel he treated all the Crown Prosecutors with disdain.
"I did so with the prosecutor in the first trial, but so did the Supreme Court of Canada when it ordered a retrial of Latimer based on that Prosecutor's behaviour. I said nothing negative about the second prosecutor, Neufeld, who for the most part behaved in a dignified and reasonable manner. I even quoted his positive comment about Latimer's act being a compassionate one."

On Parole Boards:
You were right about my concern about Parole Boards, but I thought that the readings made a persuasive case for such concern.

On the Audience:
You were right as well to criticize me for getting annoyed with certain questions, including yours. It was not, though, that they were "hard" questions; rather they represented a world view that I find very difficult to swallow, though I certainly should do so with more grace. (Being a writer, I understand this was his first stop on his tour. Nobody does the first stop perfectly. Overall, the event went very well. The readings, performed by Gary's wife, Gwyneth Evans,were excellent, too.)

On the dangers to the vulnerable:
Your views linking eugenics with euthanasia is one I have heard before, and makes the basic error of equating state-run eugenics policies, which drastically interfere with personal freedom, with proposed new laws on euthanasia, which embrace and enhance personal freedom.

I do think there are ways of protecting the vulnerable and still permit assisted suicide and euthanasia. Various people have proposed such laws, including one by bioethicist Eike Kluge that appears on my web site

(While I don't trust the Public Guardian, families, cash strapped governmens or health systems to protect the rights of the vulnerable or ensure `consent; Gary believes these are issues that can be overcome. I appreciate his willingness to acknowledge that his could become an issue, especially in light of events in which seemingly civilized people violated the civil rights of the vulnerable: Canada and Australia's residential school history (the post-confederation government run schools on the prairies, modelled on proposals of US eugenicists, by the way), the Sexual Sterilization disaster in Alberta, Apartheid in South Afria, Hitler's euthanasia law.)

Gary's New Area of Research:
"You might be interested to know that one of my next projects is to work on something about a different group of vulnerable people - those in prison. I was stunned by how unfairly and harshly the Parole Board treated Latimer. I wonder how often that sort of thing goes on, and hope to do some more investigation of it, and of other ways prisoners may be mistreated. It seems like once they are convicted of a crime they lose rights even to basic fairness, largely because no one cares about them anymore.
(Now here's an area where I think Gary is 100% right!)

The Take Away:
Gary (a humanist) and I (a fairly conservative Anglican raised by evangelical parents in Manning country) found an important point of agreement by discussing our differences. I think that is a hopeful sign.

I've been watching Canadian public debate over the past few years: the abortion debate, the ID/Evolution debate, athiest versus evangelical, left versus right, unions versus management, environmentalist versus oil worker. It seems to me traditionally respectful Canadians have been convinced that listening to (even acknowledging your opponent is a valuable human being) is wimpy. Instead, speakers on church pulpits, university podiums and even Parliament take an aggressive attitude borrowed from the United States.(It doesn't appear to work down there, either.) We talk at other rather than to each other. We shout, demonizing our opponents, and make zero progress solving our problems.

We blog to people who think like us and boost our egos. We buy books by authors who back up our own view of the world. We watch the television network that suits our political view. And, often, we demonize those on the other side of the political, ideological, religious, or social spectrum. We feel good, but we learn nothing.

The luxury (and poverty) of 21st century living (and the internet) lets us build intellectual walls disregarding and dehumanizing neighbours who do not share our world view. The result, an increasingly toxic dialogue in politics, science, and the arts.

What we do disagree about should be discussed openly and respectfully. If we do that, we'll likely find points of agreement to move society forward. For example, I was really pleased to learn that Gary Bauslaugh is investigating the parole system in Canada.

I have no doubt that Gary will produce a book on the justice system Canadians need to read. And I hope Gary keeps us posted about his new project! (I hope humanists will consider what I have to say in Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret. Those who oppose Gary's view on euthanasia would also do well to at least check Robert Latimer: A Story of Justice and Mercy out of their local library.)

As for me, I'm mulling a personal memoir of the year I spent without a home. A year in which I saw first hand the injustices in employment, social benefits, hidden taxes, denial of civil rights, health care, and housing faced by the poor in oil rich Alberta.

How does My Year Rising Above the Bar, A Memoir of Semi-Homelessness in Alberta, sound for a book title? And should I put more opposing views up on this blog from time to time? What do you think?

Monday, 29 August 2011

events and readings

I tweeted this earlier:

Author Encounter, Crossings Library, Tuesday night; Jane Harris-Zsovan, Blaine Greenwood, Richard Stevenson, and Ken Sears.

It’s all part of the only Word on the Street to take place in Alberta, 25 September.

Here is Lethbridge’s Word on the Street Blog. (I’m also participating in that event.)

Arts Days, including Art Walk and Arts Fest, are the following week. I’m also doing a reading there, but haven’t got all the details, yet.

Come one; come all to the only city in Canada, co-founded by Father of Confederation, who just happens to be the son of the Scottish poet who founded Guelph and wrote my favourite poem, "Canadian Reflections." We love talking books down here!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Ideology, Goose-stepping and Republicanism in Canada

Here's the Governor General's statement welcoming the the restoration of the historic names for the Canadian Armed Forces. As he points out, the names Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, & Canadian Armyalways remained on the books but the Pearson government, and subsequent governments, in an undemocratic bout of social engineering, forbade names to be used. Defence Minister Mackay was right in correcting this error.

The notion that you 'forbid' royal symbols, British Heritage, international ties, & history in order to create your own unhistorical Canadian culture was always undemocratic. The idea that you refuse to allow young Canadians knowledge of their constitutional heritage in order to convince them that your revolution has already taken place and indoctrinate them with the idea that the country is 'progressing' toward your own vision is nothing more than deceit. This is how much of the political and educational class in Canada have behaved over the last 50 years. They are now out of power because Canadians got sick of them.

Supression and manipulation are not democracy. Calling traditionalists and veterans fighting to have our history restored is the height of arrogance. Suggesting we cater to separatists and using ordinary Quebecois as an excuse for your own need to enforce your ideological vision on Canadians who disagree with you is divisive and reprehensible.

These activists are far more ideological than Prime Minister Harper or Preston Manning ever were. (Anyone who knows me, knows I didn't like the Alliance vision and I still have my doubts about about whether Alberta populism is really seeking democracy. But, I see the ideologues who got hold of and destroyed the Liberal Party of Canada as every bit as dogmatic as the dictatorial William Aberhart ever was.

The reaction of Pearsonian (don't blame Trudeau for this) activists suggests that they still believe they the only 'vision for Canada:' Those who feel left out of the goose-stepping ideological vision of the Pearsonians are called regressive or just plain stupid.

Tom Freda was actually right when he said that Canadians are used to having their royal symbols removed. Yes, Mr. Freda, they are.

They are used to governments obliterating their history to cater to a minority of social engineers who think they know better what Canada should be and who denounce traditionalists as stupid and colonial. Interesting Mr. Freda's own republican organization is the ultimate colonial relic, being a part of Common Cause a republican group headquartered just outside London,UK.

These activists, especially Professor Jack Granastein, know full well that the Canadian Crown is separate from the British Crown. They know that what sets the British definition of citizenship apart from many other national definitions, is that it goes beyond ethnicity to encompass a system of Parliamentary Democracy that seeks to treat (although we've had some failures here) all citizens equally before the law. (As opposed to insisting on uniformity of all citizens.)

Many of these activists actually think it is progressive to slam against 'British Canada' in a way that would never be acceptable if they attacked French, Aboriginal, Chinese, Black, or even Swedish or German Canada. And rightly so.

The Canadian Crown is not 'colonialist' at all. It has not been so since the 1931 Statute of Westminster and the
1982 Canada Act
reaffirms the independence of the Canadian Crown.

Canada's Crown helps protect the rights of all Canadians from social engineers who would recreate our nation in their own image. God Save The Queen! God Save Canada from the ideologues.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Shaw TV interview about books, literacy and Word on the Street

Click on the Word on the Street icon on Shaw TV's website to watch Dan Clovis, Shaw TV Lethbridge, interview Colette Acheson, Project Manager Word on the Street Lethbridge, and me about writing, books, and what's in store at Word on the Street 25 September,11am to 5pm, at the Lethbridge Public Library and on the adjoining streets.

(There's also a good screen shot of my books, Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret and Stars Appearing: The Galts' Vision of Canada, included in this footage.But stay away from the Chinese website on the Stars Appearing link. That book is still available through Volumes Direct.

Eugenics & the Firewall is published by J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing, Inc., represented by the Literary Press Group of Canada, and distributed through U of T press. It's available online, in university bookstores, independent bookstores,and through chains such as Chapters. McNally Robinson, Audreys, Pages,,,, & Booktopia also sell Eugenics & the Firewall.)

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Lethbridge’s Word on the Street Festival is creating a lot of buzz in Alberta’s fourth largest city. CKXU.FM, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Lethbridge Public Library all help to get the word out. Flash mobs are popping up in unexpected places and authors, musicians, publishers, and booksellers are lining up to get involved.

I’m pleased to say that my bio is up on the Word on the Street Lethbridge site. And I’m excited to be joining so many great authors at Lethbridge’s WOTS!

In the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about some of the authors, musicians, and organizations I hope to meet at the festival. Cheers!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Word on the Street Lethbridge

Here’s a heads up. It’s not on the WOTS website yet, but I will be one of the authors participating in Word on the Street in Lethbridge, Alberta 25 September 2011.

Word on the Street is a national celebration of reading and advocating literacy. It`s held in cities across Canada every September.Other Word on the Street Festivals will be held in Vancouver,B.C., Saskatoon,Sask., Kitchener, Ont., Toronto, Ont., and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Lethbridge is the only Word on the Street location in Alberta this year. Come on down!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Eugenics and the Firewall reading

Wondering about my writing style. This is a practice reading of Eugenics and the Firewall. Still working on the presentation for upcoming events. Cheers, Jane Harris-Zsovan

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Lifelong Learning not just for writers: Lethbridgeliving blog

I have a new post, The Joy of Lifelong Learning, up on If you are interested in professional writing, I hope you will join my writing and publishing classes at Lethbridge College this fall. (Descriptions will be out in the Fall Continuing Education Calendar.) If that's not your cup of tea, or you live beyond commuting distance, I hope you also will find a learning adventure to dig in to. Soon.

It's good for you!

You can read all my Lethbridgeliving posts on life and art in Southern Alberta.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Mennonites and Prairie Anglicans subject of two new articles:

I have two new history articles out: “Modern Mennonites: Building on one of Canada’s Founding Faiths” is out in the Christian Herald as is “125 At St. Augustines, in The Anglican Planet.

The Christian Herald is available in Southern Ontario. TAP is available throughout Canada and Online.

As these are independent Canadian publications, budgets can be tight. TAP, in particular, needs an influx of cash to keep paying its bills. But, I’m sure the publishers of both papers would be delighted if you subcribed!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Part III of my inteview: Don`t blame the Progressives. Everybody (except the disadvantaged loved eugenics!)

Part Three of my interview with Denyse O'Leary is up. The people who blame eugenics on a progressive ideas and social programs are going to hate what I say here:

"It`s not our progressive heritage that made the eugenics scandal possible. It`s the dark side of populism. The self-righteous pack mentality, that allows the grassroots to demand that the rights of the socially, morally or economically defective be violated by the government. Or that turns its back when it sees these rights violated.That mindset made the Sexual Sterilization Act a political necessity under the UFA and the Social Credit administrations. It allowed it to exist for forty years. It also made racial segregation and forced sterilization of defectives and `criminals`thrive in the United States for decades. And it turned a blind eye when Hitler disbanded the German Parliament and began his holocaust of innocents.``

Ahh, well, the anti-progressive types who want to remake Alberta into Texas north didn`t like me much, anyway, before I said this. So, I won`t feel much of a loss. Oh and they will absolutely hate this:

``But apparently, we still aren`t supposed mention the fact that most churches and respectable businessmen and women endorsed forced sterilization for reasons as varied as morality to the costs of housing the mentality ill. Worse yet, some national columnists keep insisting that it was only the CCF and the atheists who supported eugenics in Canada. Rubbish.``

Key Quotes from my latest media interview on eugenics

Denyse O'Leary took a big risk interviewing me for her blog. For one thing, many of her ID and faith based audiences won't like what I have to say about who supported eugenics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: "Eugenics was widely accepted by the business, academic, medical and political establishment. Preachers – in evangelical and mainline churches – even preached it from the pulpit." Nor will their opponents: "You can believe something, insist it’s scientific and proven, and be totally wrong. Atheists and religious people are equally vulnerable to this error."

Many more won't like what I tell Denyse her about the political culture in Alberta: "Well, I think it’s the mindset that Albertans have – that we’re pretty much on the side of right. And we have this terrible poverty mentality hanging on from the pre-oil industry days. The big cars, big houses, and rampant materialism are just symptoms of the fact that we “never want to be the poor men and women of Confederation again.”

Still more of the province's political and business hacks will gag on what I say about the the province's failed attempt to use the notwithstanding clause in the Canada Act to prevent the victims of the Alberta Eugenics board from getting compensation in the 1990's:"God help anyone who threatens to take any of it away in a lawsuit. We certainly don`t want to look at the dark side of populism—the pack mentality that overrides the opinions and rights of your political opponents and of the weak."

Part Three will be posted soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

My column: Christian Herald Prison Minstry Insert

The March 2011 Christian Herald, distributed in Ontario’s GTA region, includes an insert which deals with solutions to Canadian prison issues, including restorative justice. My column “Transforming Canadian Prisons:Canadian Christian Heritage” highlights the work of three great Canadians who happened to be people of strong Christian faith –George Brown, John Diefenbaker, and Agnes McPhail –and puts the lie to the media and political myth that ‘the American style Christian Right’ or a tough on ‘crime agenda’ has anything to do with Evangelical (Protestant, Catholic or Anglican Canadian) doctrine in Canada. The visions of Father of Confederation, George Brown, Prime Minister Diefenbaker, and Canada’s first female Member of Parliament, Agnes McPhail, were anything but ‘tough on crime’ or ‘eye for an eye. ‘ Their goals were restoration and merciful justice.

In Honour of International Women's Day: Agnes McPhail

In honour of International Women's Day, I'm posting my column from the March 2011 Christian Herald, circulated throughout the GTA in Ontario. It's part of the prison ministries insert, which I will post a link to shortly.

Transforming Canadian Prisons:
Canadian Christian Heritag

By Jane Harris Zsovan

“Her life might have been much easier. But this was the path she chose—the craggy
Eulogy for Agnes Macphail, Canadian Prison Reformer

According to the media and a lot of right wing activists; good Christians,
especially evangelicals, should want tougher sentences and harsher treatment
of ‘criminals.’ But history just doesn’t bearup with that perception.
Canadian prison reformers - including Father of Confederation George Brown,
Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and Canada’s first female Member of Parliament,
Agnes Macphail -- have often been motivated by their Christian faith.
John George Diefenbaker’s interest in the rights of prisoners and the accused
began when he was a defence lawyer. Convinced that innocent men were executed
and that the Crown won too many of its cases, the Evangelical Christian lawyer
became a staunch defender of presumption of innocence and protecting the
rights of the accused. His commitment to equity under the law led to the creation of
the Canadian Bill of Rights, and spurred his participation in the crusade to end of
capital punishment in Canada.
Diefenbaker followed the trail of 19th Century prison reformers including
Father of Confederation, George Brown. In 1848, Brown, a staunch Presbyterian,
was appointed Secretary to a Legislative Commission of Enquiry into prison conditions
at the Provincial Penitentiary at Kingston. His investigation found ample
evidence of cruelty and bad management and led to the firing of the prison warden.
Brown’s 1949 report condemned the “most frightful oppression – revolting inhumanity”
in the Kingston Penitentiary. His recommendations sound positively 21st
century: separating hardened criminals, first offenders, and juveniles; envisioning
rehabilitation and aftercare programs; and appointing of permanent, salaried prison
Nearly a century later, Agnes Macphail took up Brown’s crusade, turning his
recommendations into law. Elected Canada’s first female Member of Parliament in 1921, Macphail was a woman of faith. At 18, drawn to her Aunt’s and Uncle’s social conscience while she attended teacher’s college; she joined the joined their church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. But she didn’t spend much time reading the Book of Mormon. Instead she spent hours reading and underlining passages in Old and the New Testaments. She was particularly fond of prophecies in the Book of Isaiah. Macphail eventually rejoined mainstream Christianity, attending
and teaching Sunday School at Don Mills United Church. She often prayed silently for guidance before votes in Parliament.
Macphail considered her political crusades for women’s rights, peace, religious
tolerance, farmer’s rights, social reform, and prisoner rights, to be a holy
mission against the corrupt and powerful interests she believed controlled mainstream
In 1929, she was appointed as Canada’s first woman delegate to the League
of Nations in Geneva. In 1932, became one of the founders of the Co-operative
Commonwealth Federation (CCF) by bringing the United Farmers of Ontario
into the party.
But it was her work – building on some of the recommendations George
Brown made nearly a century earlier – to end the suffering of prisoners and their
families that left the biggest mark on Canadian society. Like Brown she wanted
young offenders separated from hardened adult prisoners. She was horrified by
the fact that many prisoners were repeat offenders. She grieved at the plight of the
wives and children of inmates -- most of whom were left destitute while men were
imprisoned again and again. Just as Brown’s lobbying had led to the
1848 Commission of Enquiry, Macphail’s lobbying led the 1938 Royal Commission
that formed the basis of post World War II prison reform..
After losing her parliamentary seat in 1940, a family crisis prompted her to take
charge of raising her nieces and nephews.
She supported her new household by taking in boarders. During this period of
domestic responsibility, she remained on the executive of the Canadian Civil Liberties Union and the Canadian Association for Adult Education.
It was a short break from politics.
Representing the CCF, she became the first female Member of the Ontario Legislature
in 1943. Her riding was elected for York East. As an MPP, she fought to
improve provincial jails for women. Her work led to the founding of the Elizabeth
Fry Society of Toronto.
Fighting several illnesses during her later years, she retired in 1951. She died at
age 63, in 1954.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Lethbridge Signing News Release


Harris-Zsovan to Sign Copies of Eugenics and the Firewall at Chapters Lethbridge 12 March 2011

Release: 07 March 2011

LETHBRIDGE -- Lethbridge author Jane Harris-Zsovan, will sign copies of Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret at Chapters,701 Ist Avenue South, Lethbridge, Alberta, Saturday, March 12, 11:00am-5:30pm. The book is published J. Gordon Shillingford and Distributed by University of Toronto Press. J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing is primarily a literary publisher that publishes theatre, poetry, Canadian social history, politics, religion, true crime, and biography. Website:

Jane Harris-Zsovan is a Canadian author and journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. She writes for national and regional periodicals about business, faith, politics, history and contemporary issues. Her books include Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada’s Nasty Little Secret and Stars Appearing: The Galts’ Vision of Canada.

It's a dirty little secret the heirs to Alberta’s populist legacy don’t want Canadians to talk about. In 1928, the non-partisan United Farmers of Alberta passed the first Sexual Sterilization Act. The UFA’s successor, the Social Credit Party, led by radio evangelist William Aberhart, and later by his protégé Ernest Manning, removed the need to obtain consent to sterilize “mental defectives” or Huntington’s Chorea patients with dementia.

Between 1928 and 1972 nearly three thousand citizens were sterilized, lied to, experimented on, and subjected to daily abuse at hands of provincial staff in Alberta.

Most Albertans have forgotten the victims whose names made headlines in the 1990s, and politicians and pundits have shown little empathy for the victims. Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada`s Nasty Little Secret sets the record straight.

“It`s a valuable addition to modern Canadian historical studies. I hope it comes to the attention of professors, so that it can be included in reading lists. One of the most important aspects, as you can tell from the review, is your inclusion of the modern debate on eugenic practices.” Ian Stewart, Writer, Book Reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

``Difficult Subjects`` discusses Eugenics and the Firewall

Here is the link to "Difficult Subjects", written by Samantha Power, of VUE Weekly in Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

Eugenics and the Firewall is featured in this article: The difficult subject is Alberta's Eugenics Scandal. We're good Canadians here.

We don`t think it`s 'good manners' to talk about the skeletons in our closets. But we need to, sometimes, in order not to repeat our mistakes. That's why I wrote Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret. Samantha Power does a good job with this article, and a good job of explaining why I wrote Eugenics and the Firewall.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

My interview in ArtsBridge now posted.

Spring/Summer 2011 ArtsBridge is out. Ashley Markus interviewed me about Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada’s Nasty Little Secret. Read it on my wordpress blog: Click the JHZ artsbridge interview link. Then click on the icon that appears. Article will appear.)

Better yet, eliminate the icon clicking. The article is here: "Shining a Light on Alberta's Past."

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Young British Fogey knows Canadian Queen is not a moonlighting UK Royal

This guy calls himself a young fogey I don't know about the 'fogey' part, but Rafal Heydel-Mankoo has a deep understanding of the Canadian constitution, and from what I've seen in the blogosphere, an all too rare one for a guy living in either London, Ontario or London, U.K.

I've said it here a few times: the Canadian Crown is a Canadian institution, not a British one. Our Queen is Queen of Canada by an Act of the Canadian Parliament and her role as Head of State is entrenched in the Canada Act 1982. That means Canada would remain a monarchy even if the United Kingdom became a republic.

It's basic civics, but suprisingly hard for many journalists, air-headed blow-dried tv presenters, and pundits to grasp.

Thanks Rafal Heydel-Mankoo for helping educate the Europeans, Americans, Canadians, and the rest of the Commonwealth about these basic constitutional facts.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Setting Up Spring Signings

I'll be signing copies of Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret 12 March 2011 at Chapters in Lethbridge. More details on this and other upcoming events to come..

Friday, 4 February 2011

It's time the right owned up to Alberta's eugenics horror story.

A friend emailed me this column by Michael Coren, a man esteemed in Canada's Conservative and Christian intellectual circles. Judging by his CV, Coren is a smart man, but if "The Barbaric Vision of Progressive Heroes" is any indication, it appears Coren only knows part of Canada's eugenics story.(The part his Socred, turned PC, turned Reform, turned Tory/WRA -- or whatever they're calling themselves this week-- buddies from Alberta aren't afraid to hear guys like Coren talking about.)

It's the part he thinks the 'progressives' were responsible for. An aside, Coren might be surprised to know just what progressive meant to early 20th century prairie populists. Ernest Manning, whom most conservative types from Toronto think was one of them,considered himself proudly progressive as well as conservative. As did and do most prairie folk.

But in Coren's discussion, progressive appears to mean left-wing, socialist, or a member of the 'godless' CCF. (By the way, the father of the CCF Tommy Douglas, Preacher and Premier of Saskatchewan, was a social conservative, fire and brimstone Baptist just like Premier of Alberta and radio pastor, Ernest Manning and his mentor, William Aberhart were.)

But why does Coren's discussion of Canadian eugenics omit the worst forced sterilization scandal in the British Empire (Commonwealth), the one in which nearly 3000 Albertans were sterilized at the hands of the provincial eugenics board? (Another 1900 were ordered sterilized, but escaped the knife.) Vulnerable Albertans were also lied to, beaten, used a cheap domestic labour, and made guinea pigs.

He references Douglas's university paper, "The Problems of the Sub-Normal Family," in which Douglas appears to favour legalization of sterilization for 'sub-normals' as a means to remedy illegitimacy and poverty. (Douglas's paper is vague and leaves quite a few logical gaps. He's not clear whether this sterilization is to be voluntary or forced or if it is to apply to adults who already have children.)

But Coren fails to acknowledge that, when Douglas became Premier of Saskatchewan, he never set up a provincial eugenics board. Douglas's support for eugenic sterilization was scared out of him during a 1936 trip to Europe. (One look at the rising NAZI tide convinced Douglas that a great evil was loose and that NAZI eugenics would lead to mass murder. He was right and he never forgot the lesson.)

But, as Douglas had his epiphany about NAZI eugenics, Alberta's Social Credit regime, led by William Aberhart, was hell-bent on ramping up its eugenic sterilization factory by weakening and/or removing consent provisions in the 1928 Sexual Sterilization Act (brought in by the former UFA government.) Aberhart's Socreds -- and many of their constituents -- were frustrated by the low numbers of defectives who were sterilized under the UFA legislation.

After Premier Aberhart died suddenly, his protege, Ernest Manning, became premier. Contrary to a lot of right wing political revisionism, Ernest Manning remained Aberhart's disciple throughout his life. At his December 1968 retirement from the premiership, Ernest Manning, declared that William Aberhart was ahead of his time and 'one of the greatest men this country ever produced.'

Premier Manning held fast to the Socred's revamped eugenics legislation. Critics of the eugenics board were ignored --or sued. The province's travelling, and virtually unaccountable, appointed eugenics board violated even the weak protections within the law; and the Manning government clung to the Sexual Sterilization Act years after medical and mental health professionals (albeit belatedly) denounced the 'science' behind eugenic sterilization in Alberta.

When I wrote Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret, I hoped Mr. Coren and his colleagues in the Christian and right wing media would start talking about Alberta's UFA/Socred links to forced sterilization.

So far, no luck. Maybe the Manning legacy is too dear to Canadian evangelicals and the right wing, but surely, telling half the story does a disservice to Conservatism, Canada and Christianity. Doesn't it?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

More coverage in the Media (Winnipeg Free Press)

Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret was reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press 31 December 2010.

I enjoyed reading Ian Stewart's article about my book. Eugenics and the Firewall:Canada's Nasty Little Secret.But I should clarify a couple of things:
In 1921, the United Farmers of Alberta -- a populist party that claimed to have no platform and to be non-partisan -- were elected as the Government of Alberta. (They defeated the Alberta's first political dynasty, the Liberals.) In 1928, the UFA government brought in a Sexual Sterilization Act to allow sterilization, by consent, of patients leaving mental hospitals. 
The surprise election of the William Aberhart and his Socred followers, in 1935, that led to the weakening of consent provisions  in the Sexual Sterilization Act (eliminating the need for consent for several classes of Albertans) and allowed the Eugenics Board to travel the province seeking defectives in every nook and cranny. (Complaints about the eugenics board, foster care system, or social services were viewed with distain by the governing Social Credit MLAs. In fact, at one point, the Manning Government sued the IODE for publishing complaints about Alberta Social Services.) 
The Social Credit led Government of Alberta allowed the Eugenics Board to break even the weak provisions and restrictions they left in their revamped Sexual Sterilization Act.
Both the Socreds and UFA governments claimed to be populist and progressive. Eugenics was considered a 'progessive doctrine' in the early 20th century.
2,822 Albertans were sterilized between 1928 and 1972, when the newly elected Progressive Conservatives, led by Peter Lougheed, rescinded the Sexual Sterlization Act. Another 1900 Albertans were approved for sterilization, but escaped the knife. Nobody's quite sure where they went.