“The brains of a nation”: The eugenicist roots of Canada’s mental health field and the building of a white non-disabled nation

Wong, E. H. S. (2012). Not Welcome A Critical Analysis of Ableism in Canadian Immigration Policy from 1869 to 2011. Critical Disability Discourses/Discours critiques dans le champ du handicap4.
https://crsp.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/crsp/article/view/40261

This paper examines the literature published by the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene (CNCMH), a precursor to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), from 1918-1921, and its connection to eugenicist social policies. Specifically, this study involves a critical discourse analysis of the Canadian Journal of Mental Hygiene (CJMH) published by the CNCMH, which illustrates how the roots of Canada’s mental health field are linked to a nation-building project deeply intertwined with eugenicist notions of race and disability. Foundation myths that reinforce the Canadian nation were also imbued in the literature, including: Canadian identity as linked to white non-disability, Canada as tabula rasa, and eugenicist fears of the ‘over-population’ of ‘undesirables’. On the basis of these foundation myths, the CNCMH considered mental hygiene discourse and practice as a means to further Canada as a white nondisabled nation. The desire to further the Canadian nation in this manner led to the promotion of eugenicist social policies. Many of these policies – especially, immigration controls – were put into place by the Canadian government and remain to this day.

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