By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

EDMONTON, October 12, 2010 ( - An Alberta woman has filed a lawsuit against the Alberta government claiming she was sterilized as a teenager in 1961 without her knowledge or permission.

Darlene Gabler, 64, says she was wrongfully certified as mentally deficient at 15 and irreversibly sterilized under the Sexual Sterilization Act by the Alberta Eugenics Board, a government-run eugenics program which operated from 1928 to 1972, sterilizing over 2,800 teenagers who were deemed "mentally defective."

In 1972, the year the Sexual Sterilization Act was repealed, 55 people were sterilized because of "danger of transmission to the progeny of mental deficiency" and for being "incapable of intelligent parenthood."

Gabler claims the forced sterilization injured her emotionally and physically, and left her suffering from clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She is seeking $500,000 in damages for wrongful sterilization and $200,000 in punitive damages. 
The statement of claim charges that Gabler was falsely assessed as mentally defective, the sterilization was medically unnecessary, she would not have transmitted any mental disability to a child, and the forced sterilization was a violation of her fundamental human rights.

“(The Eugenics Board) knew or should reasonably have known the Sexual Sterilization Act did not apply,” the statement of claim asserts.

In 1996, a similar suit was filed by Leilani Muir, which set a precedent for victims of the Alberta government's sterilization program.

In 1956, at the age of 11, Muir was declared a "moron" by the Alberta Eugenics Board and approved for sterilization while she was an inmate of the Michener Centre in Red Deer, Alberta's "Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives." The operation was carried out in 1959 under the pretext of an appendectomy.

Muir was awarded $740,000 for wrongful sterilization and wrongful confinement.

As a result of Muir’s lawsuit, in 1998 the Alberta government acknowledged that victims were entitled to compensation and retracted a bill that would have limited court awarded compensation to sterilization victims. Five hundred and four victims were awarded $75,000 per claimant, with an additional $25,000 payable to those who lived outside of the province's mental health institutions, in out-of-court settlements.

Subsequently, over 1200 victims of sterilization have filed suits against the Alberta government.

In North America, British Columbia and Alberta, as well as about 30 U.S. States, passed similar eugenics legislation in the 1920s and 30s that advocated sterilization for "flawed" individuals.

By 1935, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Germany had followed suit.

See previous LSN coverage:

Alberta Pays Victims of Its Eugenics Program