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

Grads at Riverside Park in Vanderhoof, B.C. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof celebrates 2021 graduates

NVSS grads got together at Riverside Park on Friday, June 11 in… Continue reading

Singing and drumming was heard in downtown Vanderhoof on Monday, June 14. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Photos: Honour Walk held in Vanderhoof

An honour walk was held Monday June 14 in Vanderhoof, remembering the… Continue reading

Emergency crews responded to the scene of a suspicious fire at the southeast corner of the OK Café in Vanderhoof Friday, June 11. The historic building is 101-years-old. (BC RCMP photo)
OK Café in Vanderhoof alright after suspicious fire

Damage kept to a minimum by firefighters

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. Northern Health confirmed it has the lowest vaccination rates amongst the province’s five regional health authorities. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Vaccination rates in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Fort St James well below provincial average

COVID-19 immunization clinics for youth 12+ coming up in Fort St. James

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Most Read