Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario

Image description of film preview: Mona Stonefish speaks into a microphone. Mona is an Onkwehón:we Elder with long silver and black braids. Her name and title, “Mona Stonefish Elder and Co-Curator,” are displayed in the lower right corner of the image. At the lower centre of the image there’s a caption that reads, “That I am with you.” (End of image description.)

In this segment from the film, Elder Mona Stonefish speaks at the Exhibition Opening event. She reflects upon her grandmother’s loving advice to her as a child when she was forcibly taken from her family and placed in the Mohawk Institute, Indian Residential School.

About Into the Light: The Exhibition and the Documentary

Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario is both an award-winning exhibition and a 37-minute documentary film that brings one of Canada’s sinister secrets of eugenics, as well as stories of survival, out of the shadows and into the light.

The exhibition was co-created and co-curated by Elder Mona Stonefish, Peter Park, Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning, Evadne Kelly, Seika Boye and Sky Stonefish and featured at the Guelph Civic Museum from September 14, 2019 – March 1, 2020 in Guelph, Ontario.

The exhibition and the documentary are co-presented by Guelph MuseumsBodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology and Access to LifeRe•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice, and Respecting Rights, ARCH Disability Law.  

Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario examines local histories and ongoing legacies of racial “betterment” thinking in Southern Ontario that de-humanized and disappeared those who did not fit the normative middle-class lives of white, able-bodied settlers.

In the early to mid-20th century, eugenics (race improvement through heredity) was taught in a number of universities throughout Southern Ontario, including Macdonald Institute and the Ontario Agricultural College, two of the three founding colleges that formed the University of Guelph. Educational institutions played a significant role in the eugenics movement by perpetuating destructive ideas that targeted Indigenous, Black, and other racialized populations, poor, and disabled people for segregation in institutions, cultural assimilation and sterilization.

While eugenics sought to eradicate those deemed as “unfit,” Into the Light centres the voices of members of affected communities who continue to work to prevent institutional brutality, oppose colonialism, reject ableism, and foster social justice, including responding to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

The documentary captures the collaborative process of creating the exhibition Into the Light through to the exhibition’s opening. Throughout the film, the creators and rights activists share stories about the exhibition process, discoveries through research, and interpretation of findings through the lens of diverse lived experiences. 

Into the Light in the Classroom: Teaching Eugenics Histories

Into the Light has great pedagogical value and potential for social justice-oriented faculty and students. The documentary may be integrated into courses. The film extends to studies in disability, decolonizing, social and political dimensions of bodies, difference, sexuality, archives, museum studies, history of sociology, psychology and anthropology, history of public health, education, and domestic science, Canadian history and the history of science, race and racism, equity, human rights law and policy, and more.

For access to the Into the Light documentary for private in-class viewing please contact Tracy Tidgwell at Bodies in Translation, ttidgwell@uoguelph.ca. For more pedagogical resources on eugenics and Into the Light contact Evadne Kelly, evadnekelly@gmail.com.

Into the Light Exhibition Access Guide

Explore the Into the Light exhibition Access Guide to find information about the exhibition, the gallery space, the accessibility of the show and events, and a glossary of key words.

Into the Light Exhibition – ASL Vlog Invitation

Image description of the video still: A Deaf Interpreter with their hands open stands in front of a brown wall. The interpreter is a person of colour, has dark brown hair pulled back, and is dressed in all black.

Awards

Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario, the exhibition, received the 2020 Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation.

A photo of Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Dolleen Tisawii'ashii Manning, Sky Stonefish, Evadne Kelly, Mona Stonefish, and Judge Albert Wong on stage at the Ontario Heritage Award ceremony.
A photo of Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell with Into the Light co-curators Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning, Sky Stonefish, Evadne Kelly, Elder Mona Stonefish, and Harvey McCue , Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust, on stage at the Ontario Heritage Award ceremony on February 21, 2020.

Media Coverage

New Guelph exhibit reveals history of eugenics education in Ontario (CBC)

“Into the Light” exposes eugenics course taught in Guelph colleges until 1948 (BLOOM Blog)

Universities must open their archives and share their oppressive pasts (Evadne Kelly and Carla Rice, The Conversation)

Reflections on Into the Light with exhibition co-curator Evadne Kelly [Video 3:08]

Reflections on Into the Light with exhibition co-curator Peter Park [Video 2:43]

Reflections on Into the Light with Sue Hutton from Respecting Rights [Video 3:09]

About the Exhibition Co-Curators and Documentary Team

Elder Mona Stonefish (Exhibition Co-creator, Documentary Creative Direction) is an Anishinaabe artist, Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Windsor Art Gallery board member, disability activist, and recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee award. 

Peter Park (Exhibition Co-creator, Documentary Creative Direction) is co-founder of Respecting Rights, founder of People First, and recipient of the June Callwood Award. 

Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning (Exhibition Co-creator) is an Anishinaabe contemporary artist and incoming Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Cultural Studies Program at Queen’s University.

Evadne Kelly (Exhibition Co-creator, Documentary Producer and Creative Direction) is a modern dancer, and Postdoctoral Artist-Researcher at Re•Vision Centre for Art and Social Justice, University of Guelph. 

Seika Boye (Exhibition Co-creator, Documentary Creative Direction) is a scholar, writer, educator and consultant, whose practices revolve around dance and movement. She is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto. 

Sky Stonefish (Exhibition Co-creator, Documentary Creative Direction) is an Anishinaabe jingle dress dancer, photographer, and beadworker. Sky is a trailblazer in many arenas: from her modelling for Shandra Spears Bombay to her activism confronting discrimination and tearing down barriers. Sky’s magnetic leadership brings people together everywhere she goes.  

Dante Jemmott (Exhibition and Documentary Voice Actor) is a Toronto theatre-based actor and recording artist. His latest release “Strength of a Flower” sheds light on the issues we have been seeing for years around the plight of black individuals in North America, while also reminding us of the strength we have within ourselves and the possibilities for a brighter future.  

Angus McLellan (Documentary Cinematographer, Video Production and Original Score) is an Ontario-based filmmaker who works mainly in independent documentary and fiction film production as a Director, Editor and Cinematographer. His projects frequently centre around social issues, as well as perceived social and personal boundaries within western culture and how they affect the way we interact with one another. 

Tracy Tidgwell (Documentary Producer, Creative Direction) is a multidisciplinary artist, activist and cultural producer working in the folds of the queer and disability communities. She is a core member of Fat Rose, a fat liberation cross-movement incubator, and the Research Project Manager for Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology and Access to Life at Re•Vision: TheCenter for Art and Social Justice.

Dawn Owen (Documentary Creative Direction) is Curator of Guelph Museums. She leads the museum’s collections, exhibitions and educational programming. Owen is committed to co-creative and accessible programming, which are core to her work toward decolonization and contemporary collecting at the museum. 

Carla Rice (Documentary Executive Producer, Creative Direction) is Canada Research Chair and Professor in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, Founding Director of Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice at the University of Guelph, and Principal Investigator and Co-Director (with Eliza Chandler) of Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology, and Access to Life. She specializes in disability and embodiment studies and in arts-based research methodologies with a focus on changing systems and fostering social well-being and justice. 

Acknowledgements and Thanks

The development of this accessible curated exhibition was generously supported by Carla Rice, Canada Research Chair and Founding Director of Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice, University of Guelph, and Principal Investigator and Co-Director (with Eliza Chandler) of the SSHRC Partnership Grant Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology and Access to Life, and the Re•Vision and Bodies in Translation teams (in particular Tracy Tidgwell, Ingrid Mündel, Kayla Besse, and Lindsay Fisher); Dawn Owen, Curator, Guelph Museums; Respecting Rights, in particular, Sue Hutton, Co-ordinator; and ARCH Disability Law Centre, in particular, Mariana Versiani, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, and Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director. Aaron Kelly, Assistant Professor in Theatre at York University supported production and graphic design elements. And, Dr. Franklin White, development consultant, public health sciences, provided notes on some of the scientific fallacies underlying eugenics.