Film as a Complement to the Written Text: Reflections on Using The Sterilization of Leilani Muir to Teach Muir v. Alberta


  • Elizabeth Adjin-Tettey
  • Freya Kodar



In this article the authors look at their experiences teaching the trespass torts to law students using a documentary film about Muir v. Alberta. The case was brought by Leilani Muir against the government of Alberta for battery and false imprisonment and for sterilizing her without her knowledge or consent. The documentary follows Muir’s court case, and interweaves her personal story with the larger social history of the eugenics movement and the development of The Sexual Sterilization Act. The authors begin with a description of the Muir documentary and a discussion of the ways in which the texts, written and filmic, work together in the context of telling Muir’s story. The authors then discuss film as a medium for telling legal stories. Finally, the authors reflect on their classroom experiences with the various Muir texts, and the ways in which the film assists them in teaching both the particular case and torts more generally. The authors suggest that complementing case reports with documentaries about them, or events related to the case, helps to provide alternative and sometimes counter stories to the official account.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Adjin-Tettey

Faculty of Law, University of Victoria.

Freya Kodar

Faculty of Law, University of Victoria. We would like to thank Scott Bergen, Lyndsey Delamont, Margo Foster, and Rose Keates for research assistance and, in Margo's case, transcript creation; Serena Ableson with the Faculty's Law Library for her assistance and navigation of the Copyright Act to preserve a copy of the Muir documentary; participants at the Canadian Association of Law Teachers Conference, Ottawa, May 2009, who provided feedback on our presentation of the work; and Rebecca Johnson and anonymous reviewers for their comments. This article has its origins in a short piece that was part of a collection of stories about using film in the law school classroom: "Using Film in the Classroom: The Call and the Responses" (2009) 21 C.J.W.L. 197 (Special Issue: Law, Film and Feminism, Gillian Calder & Rebecca Johnson, eds.).