Provincial Training School, Red Deer

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Provincial Training School, Red Deer
Established 1923
Construction Began 1913
Opened 1923
Closed 2013
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Red Deer, AB
Alternate Names
  • Alberta Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives
  • Alberta School Hospital
  • Michener Centre


The main building of the centre was built in 1913, and was meant to be an Alberta ladies' college. It was converted into a soldiers' sanitorium after World War I (WWI), before 1923 when the building was reorganized yet again. Many of the soldiers in care at the sanitorium were sent to Oliver Mental Hospital. The building then became the Provincial Training School. The school was necessary to meet a huge demand in Alberta to house "mentally defective" children and teenagers.

At its peak, the Provincial Training School held 200 residents, almost a fifth of the city's population at the time. Eventually, the School became the Michener Services Centre in 1977, a home for disabled residents, and no longer a training school. The building was struck by lightning in 2003, resulting in the entire fourth floor and portions of the third floor being heavily damaged. In 2013, it was announced that the Centre would be closed, to much controversy.

The Provincial Training School was a noted site for explicit eugenics, in the form of sexual sterilizations. When the superintendent, Leonard Jan Le Vann (superintendent for 25 years, beginning in 1949) was head of the school, his duties included not only managing the school, performing psychological analysis, and operating when other professionals were not available, but also analyzing students that were candidates for sterilization. Le Vann also conducted experiments on the effectiveness of different antipsychotic drugs on residents, including trifluoperazine, thioridazine, trifluperido, haloperidol, and chlorpromazine.

Under Le Vann, the school was run as a workhouse model, meaning that children were exposed to a balance of work, education, and play. This meant that "it was standard practice to have teenage girls spend their days scrubbing floors, making meals, and dressing and changing the diapers of the severely disabled students." (Pringle, 1997) Male students were required to milk cows, and perform other laborious tasks. Keith Manning, the son of the provincial leader Earnest Manning, was a resident of the school in 1960. However, Keith Manning received excellent service, with a special double room, and use of a typewriter.

Many children at the school were sterilized under the Sexual Sterilization Act at the site clinic, although they were lied to at the time, and simply told their appendix was going to be removed. Some of the experiments performed on children were done without consent of parents or guardians.

When the Sexual Sterilization act of Alberta was repealed, the school was immensely influenced, resulting in the "closing [of] wards and tearing down [of] dorms." (Pringle, 1997) In 1974, Le Vann resigned. Leilani Muir, once a resident at the Provincial Training School, and was the first sexual sterilization survivor to successfully sue the Alberta government in 1996, and bring these past practices to the public eye. Later, known as the Michener Centre. On 11 March 2013, the Alberta government announced the closure of the North and South facilities of the Michener Centre.