Many brave Indigenous women and their allies have come forward and shared horrifying accounts of Indigenous women being forcibly sterilized by health care professionals. There have been reports of forced sterilizations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and the territories. Yvonne Boyer, Métis lawyer and Ontario senator, says reports are coming out of Saskatoon, Regina, and Winnipeg, cities that have a higher population of Indigenous women. In Saskatoon alone, there are 60 women who are involved in a class-action lawsuit against the Saskatoon Health Region.
Women claim there is a lack of proper and informed consent and cases where they felt, “Pushed into signing consent forms for the procedures while they were in active labour or on operating tables.” In one heartbreaking story, a woman recalls being coerced by a Children’s Aid Society worker in terminating her pregnancy and being sterilized – she says her worker said, “You better have an abortion because if you don’t, either way, we are going to take that child from you.”
Cases of forced sterilizations have been well documented and reported however, not investigated by provincial and/or federal authorities. Boyer, who is calling the practice ‘heinous’, wants the issue studied nationally to fully understand the scope of the issue. Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott says, “The issue of forced sterilization of vulnerable people, including Indigenous women, is a very serious violation of human rights.” To give voice to Indigenous women, Amnesty International Canada is calling on Canada to, “Appoint a special representative to hear from Indigenous women coerced into sterilization procedures – to learn what justice would look like for them.” Giving a voice to women and ensuring the processes reflect their ideas of justice and respond to their needs is crucial.