From Charitable Relief to Social Control: The Criminalization of People with Disabilities in Nineteenth Century Canada

Main Article Content

Roy Hanes


disability, cripples, history, Canada


In recent years, academics interested in the field of disability studies have argued that the disability category is a socially constructed category influenced by historical, social, political, cultural and economic factors.  In the present era a dominant social construction of disability is that disability is primarily a "personal tragedy" (Oliver, 1990) requiring medical intervention.  Prior to the medical model social construction of the disability category, disability was primarily defined as a social and legal category linked to social welfare and charitable relief (Stone, 1984).  These two social constructs of disability (social/legal and medical model) have received a great deal of attention in recent years but there is at least one social construction of disability that has not received as much investigation and that has to do with disability as a criminal category.  The following article attempts to examine the criminalization of people with disabilities by using the case example of the care and treatment of people with orthopedic disabilities living in the province of Ontario, Canada, during the 19th Century.

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