A pending class action lawsuit launched against doctors and health workers in Saskatchewan for the coerced sterilization of Indigenous women has led human rights groups to call on Canada to put an end to this abhorrent practice, the Guardian reported.
The lawsuit — which is against the province, Saskatoon health regions, physicians, and Canada — was initially launched in October 2017 by two Indigenous women.
Since then, at least 60 women have come forward and added their names to the allegations that they were pressured into undergoing tubal ligation — a surgical procedure for sterilization, also known has having one’s “tubes tied” — in Canada.
Human rights organization Amnesty International says that it will take the fight to the United Nations Committee Against Torture to put pressure on the Canadian government to act.
The stories from these women range from promptings to have their tubes tied while under an epidural to others who said they were told they couldn’t see their newborns until they had been sterilized, according to the Guardian.
“Ultimately, this is about women who are supposed to have the right to make decisions about their bodies, having that right taken away from them,” Jacqueline Hansen from Amnesty International told the Guardian.
Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous communities is a tense one. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has in some ways taken action on furthering reconciliation between the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, but critics argue it’s not enough.
Indigenous communities across the country still live with water bans, and environmentalists could to point to the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as a violation of Indigenous veto rights on land. The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has yielded minimal results, and the health care industry has long since been accused of racism when it comes to Indigenous people.
“These women and their communities have suffered. They have suffered. And they are entitled to restitution as they essentially re-live their trauma,” Alisa Lombard, the lawyer representing the women, told the Guardian.
Yes, there are some things that Canada does well. But this is a national shame--and appears to still be going on!— Michael Kaufman (@GenderEQ) November 18, 2018
Human rights groups call on Canada to end coerced sterilization of indigenous women pic.twitter.com/PWNSdsnWJB
But the current lawsuit involves allegations from 2017.
“If it’s happened in Saskatoon, it has happened in Regina, it’s happened in Winnipeg, it’s happened where there’s a high population of Indigenous women,” Senator Yvonne Boyer, an Indigenous lawyer who co-wrote a report on women and tubal ligation in Saskatchewan, told the Canadian Press. “I’ve had many women contact me from across the country and ask me for help.”
Amnesty International has looked into sterilization cases in Mexico, Chile, and Peru, Hansen told the Guardian.
“It’s always done for a very specific reason. It is clear that it’s been linked to policies around wanting to ensure a group of people doesn’t reproduce,” she said.
Amnesty International Canada wants the federal government to assign a representative to hear from Indigenous women who experienced coerced sterilization to learn how to best service justice to those affected, the Globe and Mail reported.
Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said that Canada must put an end to the practice through policies, education and awareness-raising, according to the Globe and Mail.
“The issue of forced sterilization of vulnerable people, including Indigenous women, is a very serious violation of human rights,” Philpott told the Canadian Press.