Discipline and Punish: Canadian Philosophy, Bill C-7, and Scapegoating

I wanted to write you a post in response to the passage of Bill C-7 in the Canadian House of Commons last week, the vote that, after the Senate signs off on it, will have made euthanasia in Canada entirely legal, that is, the vote that now enables physicians to offer their disabled patients, including their emotionally distressed disabled patients, assisted suicide as a treatment option before all other treatment options have been exhausted.

I wanted the post to, in part, serve as a defiant response to the bioethicists whose outdated arguments have mocked concerns according to which Canada had embarked down a slippery slope with respect to assisted suicide and euthanasia, outdated and mocking arguments that I also critiqued in Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability.

I wanted to include in the post some remarks about my profound sadness regarding the indifference and/or lack of courage that Canadian philosophers (and philosophers in general) have displayed with respect to this horrific set of events.

I wanted to tell you how, when I took part in a panel at the end of the amazing, unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime-experience Disability Filibuster last week, tears streamed down my cheeks for the duration of the panel.

I wanted to connect what was taking place in the Canadian legislature with the exclusion of disabled philosophers and philosophy of disability from Canadian philosophy and philosophy more generally.

And I wanted to connect the events of last week to my experiences as the disabled Canadian philosopher who, by virtue of my historical placement, my lack of proximity to status and prestige, and the character of my work, has confronted the brunt of ableism in Canadian philosophy and indeed the profession more broadly.

I wanted to let you know that at one point a couple of weeks ago I had considered circulating an Open Letter but quickly ditched the idea because I expected that few philosophers would sign it.

Instead, I wrote this thread on Twitter:

Although I had written earlier critiques of the ways in which ableism conditions philosophy (i.e., with respect to discussions of prenatal testing, stem cell research, etc), in 2013, I published my paper “Introducing Feminist Philosophy of Disability.” /1

The paper was a comprehensive analysis of ableist policies + practices in publication, conference planning, hiring, etc. The article drew on some of the professional activism in which I was engaged, as well as my experiences of exclusion in Can philosophy. /2

I perceived some immediate effects of the paper in the ways that U.S.-based feminist philosophers organized their conferences, their anthologies, and so on. Not all of the responses were positive. I got some immediate pushback from members of the APA. /3

Some of these positive effects were short-lived. For example, I had criticized the way that disabled feminist philosophers are excluded from journal editorial boards. Hypatia has yet to consistently include disabled feminist philosophers on its boards. /4

Canadian feminist philosophers have done remarkably little to change the ableist face of Canadian philosophy. There isn’t a single disabled philosopher of disability in a Canadian philosophy department. The CPA Diversity Committee has done little for us. /5

Indeed, the last time I spoke to a CPA rep about the dearth of disabled philosophers in Canada, she seemed to have no idea what I meant, what the issues were, where to find relevant information about this situation, its gravity, etc. /6

When I was on the CPA Equity Committee (I misidentifed it as the Diversity Committee), I repeatedly asked why the Committee focused only on gender equity. I wanted to know why we paid no attention to the situation of disabled people in philosophy. /7

I was quickly forced off the Committee by its chair. Whether it be hiring, mentorship, “climate,” or allyship, ableism conditions Canadian philosophy and philosophy departments. /8

Despite what you may think: no one in Canadian philosophy is doing anything substantial to change this situation, systemically and institutionally. Please do not believe any promotion that a department might produce to convince you that it is. /9

I am arguably the leading disabled philosopher of disability internationally. My job applications have been repeatedly rejected by every department in Canada to which I have applied, that is, by almost every philosophy department in Canada. Canadian philosophy is a culture of eugenics. /10

The culture of eugenics in Canadian philosophy mirrors the culture of neoeugenic biopolitics of Canadian society. In large part, the philosophers and bioethicists who shape Canadian philosophy also shape Canadian public policy on disability. /11

Last week’s vote in favour of Bill C-7 is the culmination of this race to re-entrench eugenics in Canadian policy. Just as feminists have long played a role in the eugenic practices of the Canadian government with respect to…/12

disabled people, Indigenous people, Black people, people of colour, and poor people, Canadian feminist philosophers have played and continue to play a formative role in the eugenic culture and biopolitics of Canadian philosophy. /13

There is no safe place for disabled philosophers in Canadian philosophy, especially no safe place for those of us who speak out about the ableism that we confront. /14

I have been repeatedly “punished” by Canadian philosophers for doing so. No Canadian philosopher, not even a Canadian feminist philosopher, has been accountable for the way that I have been treated. And I have not told you the worst of it. /15

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