The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights
Human rights committee to study the forced and coerced sterilization of persons in Canada
March 27, 2019
The Senate Committee on Human Rights will study the forced and coerced sterilization of persons in Canada, particularly Indigenous women.
Women — many of whom are Indigenous — have reported being pressured or forced into surgery because of prejudice relating to their race and other factors.
Victims of this disturbing practice have been finding their voice and speaking out. Senators on the committee want to ensure victims’ experiences are shared so that nobody else is forced into abandoning all hope of having a child.
Forced and coerced sterilization are not relics of the past; a class-action lawsuit filed in Saskatchewan includes allegations that date from as recently as 2017. Forced and coerced sterilization have never been studied by the Senate.
With limited time before the end of the 42nd Parliament, the committee is launching a preliminary investigatory study to uncover the scope of the problem and identify other people who may have been affected. The committee is then expected to release a short report with recommendations for further study.
- The United Nations Committee Against Torture issued observations in December 2018 on how Canada is meeting its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The committee said it was “concerned” about involuntary sterilization and urged Canada to conduct an impartial investigation of all allegations, and to adopt legislative and policy measures to prevent and criminalize this practice.
- Maurice Law Barristers & Solicitors filed a class-action lawsuit in Saskatchewan relating to coerced sterilization, asking for damages of at least $7 million per plaintiff. According to a January 2019 CBC report, the law firm had received inquiries from more than 100 women, most of whom are Indigenous. The case is now being handled by Semaganis Worme Lombard.
“These stories are sickening. Vulnerable women are being deemed unfit to bear children and bullied into surgery, sometimes on the basis of race alone. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
- Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, Chair of the committee
“I cannot imagine the terror felt by women who have been judged unworthy of having children and sterilized against their will. The extent of this horrific practice must be uncovered and must come to an end.”
- Senator Salma Ataullahjan, Deputy Chair of the committee
“How many doctors and bureaucrats thought they were doing the right thing when they judged these women unfit to bear children? That arrogance must be confronted and condemned.”
- Senator Jane Cordy, Deputy Chair of the committee
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #RIDR.
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