Dealing with the Forced Sterilization of the Mentally Challenged :About
Prince Edward Island
October 23, 1986
We've come a long way since Alberta passed the Sexual Sterilization
Act in 1928. Still, the issue won't go away. The question remains:
Can the courts allow a mother to sterilize her mentally challenged daughter?
In this case, the daughter - we'll call her Eve - is 24 years old. She
is a pleasant and affectionate person who is virtually unable to communicate
her thoughts or perceptions to others. Moreover, she isn't able to understand
the idea of marriage, or even how sexual relations lead to pregnancy and
So, when Eve struck up a close friendship with a male student at a school
for mentally challenged adults - and talked of marriage - her elderly
mother was concerned. She wanted Eve to be free and happy, yet she knew
that Eve could never care for a child.
After much soul-searching, she applied to the Supreme Court of Prince
Edward Island for permission to have Eve sterilized and the court refused.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada Court which agreed
that Eve could not be sterilized for non-medical reasons.
It ruled that while Canadian courts have the power to act on behalf of
those who cannot care for themselves, that power can't be used to order
sterilization for non-medical reasons without a person's consent. It added
that although the benefits may seem attractive, they are outweighed by
the serious intrusion on a person's rights and the resulting physical
Freedom of choice and individual rights outweigh all other considerations
in this case.
Want to Know More?
E. (Mrs.) v. Eve
Forced sterilization of mental patients