Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

The federal Liberals are turning to a broad group of officials — from provinces, territories, Indigenous groups and medical organizations — for solutions to mounting allegations from Indigenous women that they were victims of coerced and forced sterilizations.

Valerie Gideon, a senior assistant deputy minister in the Indigenous Services Department, told a Commons committee on Monday that two cabinet ministers are co-signing a letter to their provincial and territorial counterparts outlining the plans to discuss cultural safety in medicine.

RELATED: Feds reject push to amend Criminal Code to outlaw forced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations, which dozens of women say have been inflicted on them against their will when they gave birth.

Coerced sterilization amounts to a violation of human rights and medical ethics, Gideon told the committee, noting it is also a form of gender-based violence.

“Sterilization is not something that any one profession or order of government can address alone,” she said.

“Federal, provincial, territorial, Indigenous governments and organizations all have a role to play.”

Doctors and those who regulate the profession must be involved, she added, saying sterilization is a “matter of the practice of medicine” and that only surgical practitioners can perform procedures such as tubal ligations.

Last week, the United Nations Committee Against Torture said Canada must stop the “extensive forced or coerced sterilization” of Indigenous women and girls in Canada, adding all allegations must be impartially investigated.

In question period Monday, NDP MP Romeo Saganash pushed Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott to detail what the Liberal government will do to implement the UN recommendations, including holding people accountable, providing redress for the victims and adopting legislative policy measures to outlaw forced sterilization.

In response, Philpott said the government is working to make sure “this never happens again.”

She also stressed Ottawa will work with provinces, territories, health providers and medical associations to make sure the “concept of informed consent is well understood and that culturally safe care is also well taught.”

Tubal ligations carried out on unwilling Indigenous women is one of the “most heinous” practices in health care happening across Canada, according to Ontario Sen. Yvonne Boyer, a Metis lawyer and former nurse.

In 2017, Boyer and Metis physician and researcher Dr. Judith Bartlett produced a report on Indigenous women who were coerced into tubal ligations — the severing, burning or tying of the Fallopian tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus — after childbirth in the Saskatoon Health Region.

The region subsequently apologized.

RELATED: Examine ‘monstrous’ allegations of forced sterilization of Indigenous women: NDP

Some Indigenous women interviewed for the report felt pushed into signing consent forms for the procedures while they were in active labour or on operating tables, Boyer said. Last year, two of the affected women launched a class-action lawsuit against the Saskatoon Health Region.

The proposed class action led by lawyer Alisa Lombard and her firm Maurice Law names the Saskatoon Health Authority, the Saskatchewan government, the federal government and a handful of medical professionals as defendants.

More women have since come forward to disclose their experience with coerced sterilization.

About 100 women have now come forward to report they have been forcibly sterilized, Lombard said — an additional 40 women since The Canadian Press published a story in November detailing Boyer’s push to study the issue nationally.

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Troy McMillan was flown to a Vancouver hospital Oct. 18 after falling into the boards while playing hockey Oct. 11. (Submitted Photo)
Quesnel family “overwhelmed” by support after hockey injury

Troy McMillan is fighting for his life after tumbling into the boards Oct. 11

Current students from Quesnel Junior School help break the ground at the construction site of the new Junior School. The project has been in development since 2005, and it is expected to be completed in 2022. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel School District “COVID-free”

Superintendent Sue-Ellen Miller is happy with how two September exposure events were handled

This Google Maps screenshot shows the Highway 97 intersection at Juniper Road that is being deactivated in South Quesnel. (Google Maps screenshot)
Juniper Road intersection being deactivated in South Quesnel

Traffic can no longer enter or exit Highway 97 at Juniper Road in a move to improve road safety

Quesnel was hit with unseasonably October snowfall earlier this week. More is on the way on Sunday, Oct. 25 and Monday, Oct. 26, and Quesnel and North Cariboo are under a winter storm warning. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
UPDATE: Winter storm warning ends for Quesnel

10-20 cm of snow and freezing rain was expected to start Sunday night

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

Most Read