Monday, Amnesty International announced it will lobby the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) to compel the Canadian government to investigate the allegations of forced sterilization of indigenous women. So far 60 women have come forward with a pending lawsuit against health professionals in Saskatchewan, a Canadian province with a large Native population.
The lawsuit challenges the doctors who allegedly tied, burned, or cut Native women’s fallopian tubes without their permission. Some women in the lawsuit recount that they were threatened with not seeing their newborn children unless they complied with the surgery. Amnesty International is also calling on the Canadian government to hire an outside representative to speak with the women affected to determine what reparations they are hoping to receive. Indigenous leader Perry Bellegarde called for an investigation by the federal government. “It is wrong, it is immoral, it is a gross violation of human rights, and this dehumanizing practice must stop.”
In 2015 the first allegations arose concerning the sterilization of 4 indigenous women in the province. Although there was an investigation, a subsequent apology and new rules surrounding tubal litigation procedures, there have been new allegations as recently as 2017. Canadian indigenous lawyer and Senator Yvonne Boyer called for a national investigation, adamant that if these sterilizations are happening in one province they are happening in more provinces. Senator Boyer stated that she is calling for the practice of coerced sterilization to be criminalized and for health professionals to receive more comprehensive training surrounding ethical sterilization practices.
The forced sterilization of women of color has occurred around the globe, including within US borders. Eugenics practices have been used to control certain populations, namely immigrants, the disabled, the poor, and women of color. In California, a state where over 20,000 people have been sterilized against their will, laws banning the practice were formed and passed following the investigation into the sterilization of around 150 female prison inmates from 2006-2010.
Media Resources: The Guardian 11/18/18; Britannica 9/24/18; Jezebel 11/19/18; PBS 1/29/16; Feminist Newswire 8/27/14