What is eugenics?

  • Eugenics aims to use science for human improvement over generations by changing the composition of human populations through favouring the reproduction of certain sorts or kinds of people.
  •  A science that purports to improve the human race through the control of reproduction (
In 1928, the province of Alberta introduced the Sexual Sterilization Act, which promoted the practice of surgical sterilization for those deemed “mental defectives”, a practice in effect until 1972. British Columbia was the only other Canadian province to enact comparable eugenic sterilization legislation, which was in place until 1973.

Alberta and British Columbia are the only provinces where, for a number of years, the government sterilized mentally ill men and women without their consent. Many of the sterilizations took place in institutions in Alberta and British Columbia.

More information can be found on Canada’s Human Rights History website

How is eugenics connected to the Eve Case?

In the Eve Case, the Supreme Court of Canada made a decision that guaranteed mentally disabled individuals freedom from involuntary sterilization.

Information on the BC Sexual Sterilization Act:
“The Sexual Sterilization Act, which was in effect in British Columbia from 1933 to 1979, gave the B.C. Eugenics Board the right to make decisions to sterilize people living in government-run institutions without their consent and without their knowledge of what was happening. This treatment was approved as a means of controlling behaviour and ensuring the disability was not passed on to future generations. The Act was repealed in 1979, but the practice continued in the community for a number of years until the Supreme Court of Canada made a decision in E. (Mrs.) vs. Eve (1986).”

History of Eugenics

The Eugenics Archives Project has worked directly with eugenics survivors in Alberta to tell their own personal stories, hosting a range of public outreach events and creating online resources. Below are a few links from the archives.

Leilani Muir’s Story

Leilani Muir won a landmark lawsuit against the province of Alberta in 1996 for wrongful confinement and sterilization; two documentaries, The Sterilization of Leilani Muir (1996) and Surviving Eugenics (2015) engage general audiences with issues that the case and its aftermath raise, and their significance for Canadians today.

Leilani Muir has also written a book A Whisper Past: Childless after Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta

1928 – Alberta passes Sexual Sterilization Act

1972 – Alberta Repeals the Sexual Sterilization Act

1933 – British Columbia Passes “An Act respecting Sexual Sterilization”

1973 – British Columbia Repeals the Sexual Sterilization Act