The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Forced and coerced sterilization of Indigenous women ongoing, Senate report reveals

A Senate committee on human rights says it is aware of a case as recently as 2019

She was screaming that she “didn’t want this,” but it happened anyway.

A Cree woman had just given birth to her sixth child in Saskatoon, when she was presented with a consent form for her sterilization.

“She tried to wheel herself away from the operating room, but the doctor wheeled her right back in the direction of the same operating room,” says a new government report, which details the woman’s sterilization in 2001.

“When she was in the operating room, she kept asking the doctor if she was done yet. Finally, he said, ‘Yes. Cut, tied and burnt. There, nothing is getting through that.’”

The woman, referred to as S.A.T., is one of 16 women who shared their experiences about their sterilizations in the report by a Senate committee on human rights.

The report, released Thursday, says coerced sterilization of Indigenous women is not a matter of the past and still happens in Canada today.

The committee is urging the federal government to further investigate the “heinous” practice by compiling data and come up with solutions to bring it to an end.

It says the precise number of Indigenous women subjected to forced or coerced sterilization in Canada is unclear.

It also argues that the practice hurts other marginalized and vulnerable groups in the country, including Black women and other people of colour.

Most of the women interviewed for the report were coercively sterilized between 2005 and 2010. The committee says it is aware of a case of forced sterilization as recent as in 2019.

“Some of the Indigenous women who were forced or coerced into sterilization live on reserves in remote areas. Hospitals are often a long distance away and require significant travel – sometimes by air,” the report says.

“Away from their family and communities to give birth, many Indigenous women experience language and cultural barriers. Many women are not given adequate information or support to understand and to be informed of their rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights.”

Until 1972, Alberta had a law requiring the forced or coerced sterilization of people considered “mentally defective.” In British Columbia, the same law existed until 1973.

“Persons deemed ‘mentally defective’ were not alone as targets – Eastern Europeans as well as Inuit, First Nations and Métis people were also disproportionately targeted and sterilized,” the report says.

Karen Stote, an assistant professor of women and gender studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, says in the report that despite the repealing of provincial eugenics laws, forced or coerced sterilization of Indigenous women continued in federally operated “Indian hospitals.”

About 1,150 Indigenous women were sterilized in these hospitals over a 10-year period up until the early 1970s, says the report.

“There was ‘a climate of racism and paternalism leading to the view that sterilization was for some women’s own good,”” Stote says in the report.

“These attitudes and beliefs continue to underpin health policy today and contribute to the practice of coerced and forced sterilization.”

The chair of the Senate committee on human rights, Salma Ataullahjan, said the federal government needs to study the issue further.

“The prevalence of this horrific practice is both underreported and underestimated,” she said in a news release.

“The committee is deeply concerned that, along with Indigenous women, other vulnerable and marginalized groups in Canada are affected by forced and coerced sterilization, including women with disabilities, racialized women, intersex children and institutionalized persons,” added deputy committee chair, Wanda Thomas Bernard.

“Parliamentarians must understand the full scope of this problem if we are to initiate effective and meaningful solutions.”

The office of the federal health minister did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

— By Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

RELATED: UN committee tells Canada to do more on sterilizations of Indigenous women

FamiliesIndigenous

Just Posted

The Red Chris open pit mine approximately 80 km south of Dease Lake. The province and Tahltan will start negotiations on the first consent-based decision-making agreement ever to be negotiated under DRIPA with regards to two mining projects in northern B.C. (Newcrest Mining photo)
B.C. to begin DRIPA-based negotiations with Tahltan First Nation on two northwest mining projects

Negotiations on Red Chris and Eskay Creek mines to commence soon in accordance with Section 7 of DRIPA

President of the Tahltan Central Government, Chad Norman Day, surveys Tahltan territory by helicopter in this July 2019 handout photo. The Tahltan Nation and the British Columbia government have struck what officials say is a historic agreement for shared decision-making for the nation’s territory in northwestern B.C., a hot spot for mineral exploration. Day says the deal shows they are “getting closer and closer to a true nation-to-nation relationship.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Tahltan Central Government
Tahltan Nation, B.C. government sign agreement for shared decision-making

Deal commits the province and the northwest B.C. nation to developing a land-use plan

Tahltan First Nation wildlife guardian, Jarett Quock, above and below right, was awarded the Outstanding Individual Leadership Award by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative on June 3. (Photos courtesy Adam Amir)
Tahltan wildlife guardian receives outstanding leadership award

Jarett Quock’s contributions were recognised by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley addresses Parliament on June 7, in call for the federal government to stop fighting Indigenous children in court and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. (Image: supplied from Facebook)
NDP motion calling for immediate reconciliation action passes

Skeena-Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach addresses federal Parliament

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read