Canadian Senator Yvonne Boyer is aggressively pushing for a nationwide investigation into forced sterilizations in Indigenous communities.
Though an antiquated and highly controversial procedure of the past, recent reports from various territories in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario show reason to believe that the “heinous” procedures may still be in practice around the country, said Boyer, a nurse turned lawyer who is now Ontario’s senator.
A 2017 report researched by Boyer and Metis physician Dr. Judith Bartlett described numerous cases of Indigenous women coerced into tubal ligation following childbirth in the Saskatoon Region. The study’s findings were the foundation of the legislator’s first address in the upper chamber.
“I’ve had many women contact me from across the country and ask me for help… 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,” Boyer said.
According to Boyer, mothers were coerced while in labor or on operating tables and at least 60 women are involved in a class-action lawsuit claiming US$7million in damages.
“If there are 60 women just in the Saskatoon area, there are many more that haven’t come forward in that area and there are many more that wanted to come forward but were too traumatized to… There’s many more that have buried those memories,” the Senator said.
An associate with Maurice Law, Alisa Lombard, said that her law firm has received calls from women outside the region saying the right to a proper and informed consent was withheld.
Lombard warned her firm will be raising the issue during the UN Committee Against Torture later this month.
“I think any and all attention brought to such egregious human-rights breaches is not only necessary, but it ought to be expected... I think our governments have an obligation to look into it deeply and to fix it, most importantly,” Lombard said.
Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott agreed, saying that Canadian officials have an obligation to put a stop to the practice with policies, awareness campaigns, and education programs.
“The issue of forced sterilization of vulnerable people, including Indigenous women, is a very serious violation of human rights,” she said.