The Sociology Video Project

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Title: The sterilization of Leilani Muir

Rating: 3.1 out of 4

Reference: Director, Glynic Whiting; producers, Graydon McCrea & Jerry Krepakevich.
Montréal: National Film Board, 1996.
47 minutes
Call number: video 4076

Abstract: Entwines Muir’s personal search for justice with the background story of eugenics, a respected “science” during the early decades of the twentieth century.

Library of Congress subjects:
Sterilization, Eugenic--Alberta
Video recordings for the hearing impaired

Sociology subjects:
The body
Criminal justice issues
Diasporas & immigration
Health & medicine
Poverty in North America (in part)
Resisting the state
Science & technology

Reviews and Numerical Ratings

(3) A compelling story told through the lens of a 1996 court case in which Leilani Muir charged that the Government of Alberta had improperly confined her in a provincial training school for “mental defectives” and had, in 1959, sterilized her at age 14 without her consent. The trial resulted in an award to Ms Muir of _ million dollars . The film includes a history of eugenics and IQ testing as well as some interesting interview segments with Stephen Jay Gould. Penni Stewart

(4) This video is long, but worth showing – a great teaching resource for a course on family or moral regulation. There are web resources that bring the story of forced sterilization up to date, based on recent media attention to the cases this video refers to. Students respond well to this slice of Canadian history. Good as a complement is Ladybird, Ladybird, which is also long. Doreen Fumia

(2.5) This documentary provides a testimonial to the sterilization of Leilani Muir. It supplies a historical account of the conditions that gave rise to the concept of Eugenics and demonstrates how it was adopted in practice throughout Europe and North America. The documentary shows that the sterilization practice employed was inherently sexist, racist, and oriented towards the powerless (class bias). This video also shows how the 'logic' and basis of the Eugenics concept is erroneous at best, and preposterous at worst. Although the video indicates that the practice of Eugenics has been eradicated, it fails to acknowledge that the concept/philosophy, the ideology and the ideal that advocates of Eugenics sought to enact remain prevalent in contemporary society. Carlos Torres (undergraduate)

(3) Informative video that interweaves Muir’s court case and her account of experiences at an Alberta institution for “mental defectives” with commentary on the history of eugenics (including, for example, brief sections on Nazism (with only one error I could spot), on the IQ test, etc.) and its relation to beliefs about immigrants being of unsatisfactory “stock”. Muir is a sympathetic narrator of a chapter of Canadian history that will surprise many students. Kathy Bischoping


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