To Top

Indigenous Women Of Canada Coerced Into Sterilization

Two women have filed a class action lawsuit after the Saskatoon authorities admitted that several others have made claims of undergoing process without proper consent. The class-action lawsuit is over the allegations that they were coerced undergoing the sterilization process at a Saskatchewan hospital. It was launched after the authorities of health in the province admitted that several women came forward having similar claims.

The legal challenge is the idea of proper and informed consent and whether this was obtained before women were sterilized.

 One of the complainants claimed that she had explicitly refused to have her fallopian tube tied when staff suggested the procedure after she gave birth to a baby boy in 2001. She was taken to the operating room in a wheelchair despite her objections to the procedure. The woman was still weak from the delivery of her child and she was helpless but the procedure still carried out. The second woman accused a doctor suggesting for a tubal ligation as she was being wheeled into the operating room for emergency cesarean section. She had already been given an epidural to counter the pain that she was into.

She was having serious reservations about the suggested procedure and under distress for the premature delivery of her son. She was under the impression that she was in no position to reject the idea. She consented operation. The procedure was carried out right after she gave birth to a baby boy back in 2008. The identities of the complainants were protected by a publication ban.

Ruslana Iurchenko / Shutterstock

The lawyer who filed the statement of claim, Alisa Lombard, said that you have to ask how these things happened. That these women are people whose choices were taken away from them, the choices based on fundamental human rights. The choice and personal decision to bear and have more children should have been theirs. And that it should not be influenced, forced or coerced.

Several women have come forward and told the local media that they felt pressured into having a tubal ligation right after childbirth at a hospital in Saskatoon. It was then that the issue of coerced sterilization made it to the spotlight in 2015. The response of the health authorities was the introduction of new criteria for tubal ligations and commissioning an independent review.

The resulting report described the experiences of seven women who are indigenous have felt they have been coerced into sterilization.The report by an indigenous doctor and lawyer was released in July.

The said report did not give any timelines of details that are specific. The focus was on the experience of women feeling powerless and discriminated against. It documented how harassed they felt with the procedure by the doctors and nurses. One woman even said that a hospital staff did not want her to leave if she won’t have the tubal ligation.

Some of these women have stated that they gave no consent and could not recall doing so while the others consented because they were too tired and overwhelmed with feelings. Several women came forward to the media with allegations of being harassed and pressured into tubal ligations at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. In addition, most of them did not know that this procedure is permanent.

SchnepfDesign / Shutterstock

Historians have been documenting for a long time about the disproportionate effects of the policies on sterilization on the indigenous women of Canada. The province of Alberta has enacted the legislation that is aimed at the sterilization of those that are mentally challenged and other disadvantaged groups in 1928. They estimated 2,800 sterilizations before the act was repealed in 1972. British Columbia passed its own act in 1933 that sterilized 400 people.

The released report this summer has sparked an apology from the Saskatoon health region, the authority that oversees the hospital in the claims. The spokeswoman, Jackie Mann has said in a press conference their apologies to the women that came forward in the review and to those in the past, as well as those who haven’t been able to come forward.

More in Family Law