The federal government and the provinces must examine “monstrous” allegations of modern-day forced sterilizations of Indigenous women, NDP reconciliation critic Romeo Saganash said Monday.
Saganash, who is planning to raise the issue in the House of Commons, said that coerced sterilization clearly breaches human-rights standards that Canada must fight to uphold.
Authorities should very carefully read Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN in 1948, Saganash said.
It says that “genocide” includes any acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, such as by “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
No Canadians should tolerate allegations of forced sterilization in their country, Saganash said, adding that Ottawa must take concrete steps to address the issue as victims share their stories.
“I think they have to take this seriously,” said the MP from northern Quebec, who is Cree. “Just the fact that it is happening and people are coming out makes it serious enough to look for a solution.”
The issue of forced sterilizations will also be raised at the UN Committee Against Torture this week, when Amnesty International Canada and a national law firm call for accountability on the practice.
Maurice Law is leading a proposed class-action lawsuit against the federal government, the government of Saskatchewan, all its health authorities, and individual medical professionals.
The lawsuit was launched in 2017 by two affected women in the Saskatoon Health Region who each claimed $7 million in damages. Now about 60 women are part of the lawsuit.
In its submission to the UN committee, the law firm said there has been no effort at a comprehensive review to understand the scale of the problem or the conditions that make forced sterilizations possible.
It also listed a number of solutions, including a proposal to specifically criminalize forced sterilization as the “single most effective, immediate and enduring measure that could be taken” to protect women from this practice.
Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott recently said in an interview that forced sterilizations are a serious violation of human rights and said Canada must look at policies, education and awareness-raising to ensure the practice stops.
Yvonne Boyer, a Metis senator for Ontario, has said tubal ligations carried out on unwilling Indigenous women are one of the “most heinous” practices in health care happening across Canada.
Amnesty International Canada has recommended the federal government appoint a special representative to examine the prevalence of the practice across the country.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde also wants to see the scope of forced sterilization examined and called the practice wrong, immoral and a “gross violation” of human rights.
Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press