Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices aimed at improving the human population through controlled breeding. It includes “negative” eugenics (discouraging or limiting the procreation of people considered to have undesirable characteristics and genes) and “positive” eugenics (encouraging the procreation of people considered to have desirable characteristics and genes). Many Canadians supported eugenic policies in the early 20th century, including some medical professionals, politicians and feminists. Both Alberta (1928) and British Columbia (1933) passed Sexual Sterilization Acts, which were not repealed until the 1970s. Although often considered a pseudoscience and a thing of the past, eugenic methods have continued into the 21st century, including the coerced sterilization of Indigenous women and what some have termed the “new eugenics” — genetic editing and the screening of fetuses for disabilities.
"Great men are almost always bad men," Lord Acton famously said. If that is so, we are
going to have to tolerate flaws if we want to celebrate "great" Canadians. The eugenics
movement of the early 20th century particularly tries our tolerance of several of our textbook
The practice of sterilization arose out of the eugenics movement and has a long, often hidden history in Canada. Sterilization legislation in Alberta (1928–72) and British Columbia (1933–73) attempted to limit the reproduction of “unfit” persons, and increasingly targeted Indigenous women. Coerced sterilization of Indigenous women took place both within and outside existing legislation, and in federally operated Indian hospitals. The practice has continued into the 21st century. Approximately 100 Indigenous women have alleged that they were pressured to consent to sterilization between the 1970s and 2018, often while in the vulnerable state of pregnancy or childbirth.