Leilani’s Story

Leilani Marietta O’Malley Muir was born in Calgary, Alberta, on July 15, 1944. She passed away on March 14, 2016.

Leilani survived an exceptionally abusive childhood before being abandoned by her mother at the Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives (PTS) in Red Deer, Alberta at the age of ten. She spent the rest of her childhood living inside this controversial institution where she was wrongfully termed a ‘moron.’ As part of a program to weed out ‘feeblemindedness’ in society, admission to the PTS meant mandatory sterilization.

At the age of twenty, Leilani was removed from the PTS by her mother, and finally set out on a journey to lead a normal life on her own a year later. As a married woman, she was devastated to discover she’d been sterilized while at the PTS. At the time, she was told only her appendix was being removed. But the doctors at the PTS clinic took away her right to bear children. This discovery led to a very dark time in her life. But after finally finding a medical professional in 1988 who would listen to her, there was no stopping Muir. She decided at that point to no longer be a victim, and became the first eugenics survivor to file and win a lawsuit for wrongful sterilization against the Alberta government. The judgement from her historic trial is available on-line: Muir v. The Queen in right of Alberta can be downloaded here in PDF format.

After her trial, Leilani was the subject of a National Film Board of Canada documentary entitled The Sterilization of Leilani Muir. Courageous and determined, she was always ready to share her story with others. She understood the power of storytelling and, through her words, hoped to protect vulnerable children and youth, encourage other abused people to speak out, and shed new light on Canada’s shameful eugenics program. In addition to becoming a social justice spokesperson (including appearing in The Vagina Monologues), she ran as a New Democratic Party candidate for a seat in the Alberta legislature. As recently as November 2011, Leilani was featured on CBC The Current’s Game Changer series. Her story is just as moving and relevant today.

Leilani worked with the following groups to promote human rights:

Edmonton Learning Community

Field Law

Gateway Association

Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada

MAA & PAA Theatre

Montreal Life Stories / Histoires de vie Montréal

Neighborhood Bridges

Transitions Rehabilitation Association