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Amnesty wants action on forced sterilization


OTTAWA—The federal government needs to appoint a special representative to hear from indigenous women coerced into being sterilized to learn what justice would look like for the survivors, Amnesty International Canada says.

The human-rights organization, which plans to take the issue to the United Nations Committee Against Torture this month, insists there must be action from the federal government, the provinces and territories, and medical regulators.

Many people are familiar with historic cases of coerced or forced sterilizations of indigenous women in Canada but Amnesty's gender-rights campaigner, Jacqueline Hansen, said people are shocked to learn it's still occurring.

“It just shouldn't be happening and those who have experienced this need to see justice,” Hansen said in an interview yesterday.

The issue of forced sterilization of indigenous women has been on Amnesty International's radar for some time, she added, pointing to a large body of work regarding the practice in Peru and the Americas.

But she called it “deplorable” that reports indicate it still is happening in Canada, especially when the country has committed to reconciling its relationship with indigenous peoples.

Coerced sterilization was raised at the UN in May when Canada's entire human-rights record was up for review, Hansen said, noting she hopes the committee against torture will ensure Canada is accountable and compliant with international human rights obligations.

Systemic bias against indigenous women in policing is well-established and known, she added, and it also exists in the provision of health services to indigenous people.

Sen. Yvonne Boyer said yesterday she welcomes Amnesty's call for an outsider to examine the practice and collect data on its prevalence.

She noted she's heard from indigenous women in different parts of Canada who have suffered it.

In 2017, Boyer produced a report with Métis physician and researcher Dr. Judith Bartlett detailing how indigenous women 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.

A class-action suit was launched the same year and about 60 women have joined it.

“There's lot of research that needs to be done,” Boyer said.

“The report that Dr. Bartlett and I did was just a mere glimpse into the problem.”

Boyer also said the special representative should be indigenous and that the issue must be examined with an indigenous framework.

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