The tubal ligation is a method of contraception considered irreversible.
“Forced and coerced sterilization” should be considered a criminal offense in Canada, and those who have been subjected to this “heinous practice” should receive an apology and compensation, says a Senate committee.
In the second part of its report, tabled Thursday, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights states that forced and coerced sterilizations are still practiced in Canada today, and that legal and political measures must be taken. taken to prohibit this practice.
The Senate committee says this abhorrent practice disproportionately affects vulnerable and marginalized groups, including Indigenous, Black and racialized women, people with disabilities, intersex children and institutionalized people.
The report follows a Senate committee study of forced and coerced sterilization in Canada, which began in 2019. The committee defines forced or coerced sterilization as surgery to prevent conception, but performed without free consent, prior and informed testimony.
Senator Yvonne Boyer said at a press conference Thursday that the committee had heard strong truths from survivors who came to testify, and that these stories must continue to be heard. show the way forward.
Survivors who testified were unequivocal that they believe racism was the driver of their unwanted sterilization, Senator Boyer said. The repercussions of forced and coerced sterilization are widespread, long-lasting and devastating.
“In addition to the trauma of undergoing the procedure itself- likewise, witnesses described long-term effects on physical and mental health, including depression, anxiety, and loss of faith in the medical system.
— From the Senate committee report
The committee's report points out that Canada has a long history of forced and coerced sterilization, through laws and government policies.
For much of the 20th century, these laws and policies explicitly aimed to reduce births in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, in Black communities, and among people with multiple vulnerabilities related to poverty, race and disability, the report reads.
Senator Boyer said the discovery that struck her most was the profound impact entrenched sterilization on entire communities and future generations. Forced sterilization disrupts and violates natural laws that indigenous peoples have followed since time immemorial, she said.
Boyer already introduced a bill in the Senate last month that would make it a criminal offense to sterilize someone against their will or without their consent. She urged the government on Thursday to quickly pass the bill.
While existing Criminal Code offenses criminalizing assault could be used in the case of forced sterilizations, the Senator Salma Ataullahjan said the committee found no consequences for anyone engaging in the practice.
According to Ms. Boyer, forced sterilizations are still practiced even if provinces declare the contrary. Her bill would force health professionals to stop and think before acting, she believes.
Senator Michèle Audette added that this provision would help women or families know that there is a law specifically designed to protect them.
Senator Boyer read a statement on Thursday from a woman from a First Nations community in southern Alberta who said she was coerced into being sterilized after having four children. She said her mother was also sterilized shortly after giving birth to her.
“I was attacked by a system that wished to harm the continuation of my family and my ancestral line. ”
— Report excerpt
This is simply genocide, limiting the number of my immediate family members, loved ones, members of my community and Indigenous existence, she wrote.
The Senate Human Rights Committee has been interested in this issue for some time already. In June 2021, he released a preliminary report in which he revealed that the horrible practice of forced and coerced sterilization still exists in Canada.