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Triple Vision: Putting the “You” Back in Eugenics: Part 3

In this third episode of a series on the history of the practice of eugenics in Canada, Peter Field speaks with Associate Professor Geoffrey Reaume of York University. They discuss documents obtained from Library and Archives Canada, which show that the CNIB played an active role in the sterilization of Canadians who are blind in the late 1930s. The discussion begins with a letter from A. R. Caufman of the Kaufman Rubber Company in Kitchener, Ontario. Kaufman writes to the CNIB's Managing Director, Edwin Baker, making the case that more blind Canadians should be sterilized under the direction of his “Parent Information Bureau.” While Baker disagrees with some of Kaufman's ideas, records demonstrate that, a year later, the CNIB paid for the costs of the sterilization of four blind men. Peter and Geoffrey explore ideas about how we can react to this kind of history. What do we do about an individual like Captain Baker who was so instrumental in improving the lives of blind Canadians, but also responsible for actively supporting eugenics practices? “I would certainly not agree with erasing him, or cancelling Edwin Baker, or anyone else, from history. I think we have to account for different people's positions and critique them, but not erase them. History is history and we have to deal with them, and that includes people we have often thought of as heroically, but as time went on, we've re-assessed.… So, I would say is what we do is re-assess and critique their positions, where they were from, also recognizing they were coming from a position of privilege. In the case of Edwin Baker, of course, he was very well connected, and he certainly did make positive contributions to the welfare of people who are blind. There's no question about that in terms of his work with the CNIB, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be criticized just as anybody else in positions of power or leadership.”

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Archival Date: 
Wednesday, April 6, 2022