Well, this is a story that you might have expected to see a 100 years ago, however, it happened just last year.
The Government of Canada, physicians, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and the province of Saskatchewan are being sued by more than 60 Indigenous women who say that they were sterilized against their will after they gave birth. The women had been sterilized over the past 20 to 25 years, and the most recent incident took place in 2017.
The law firm handling the proposed class-action lawsuit it Maurice law, and their associate Alisa Lombard shared in an interview what the indigenous women experienced. She claims the women went into the hospital to give birth and they got pressured into signing a consent form while in labor. The options were either not signing the consent form or giving birth, most of the women reported that they were told that the procedure was reversible however they left sterile. Some were even told that they would not be allowed to see their newborn babies until they agreed to the tubal ligation.
All of the stories show a pattern of coercion and harassment from the health professionals that were supposed to take care of them. They would approach the women, harass them and coerce them into signing the consent forms. They would also be told that they couldn’t leave the hospital before their tubes were cut or cauterized (depending on the procedure used), and that they couldn’t see their babies until they agreed.
The newly appointed Senator Yvonne Boyer is the first Indigenous Senator for Ontario, and she wrote a detailed report on forced sterilizations last year. She called out the Canadian government to take action on this issue, and she said in an interview that she believes if this has happened in Saskatoon, it has probably happened in Regina and in Winnipeg – places where there’s a high population of Indigenous women. Many women from across the country have already contacted her asking for help.
The sterilizations are not illegal, and that’s exactly what the lawyers are trying to change.
If you’re looking for a logical reason for this “parody” besides racism and prejudice, you won’t find one.
According to Dr. Janet Smylie, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto, these sterilizations are the product of a combination of systematic and attitudinal racism fueled by stereotypes of Indigenous mothers.
She thinks that they have to radically change the way they train their professionals and they have to teach them that stereotypes about Indigenous people or other marginalized social groups are still rampant. Good intentions only is not enough, and the in-grouping and out-grouping often happens at an unconscious level.
She also pointed out that this is a continuation of practices that have been going on for centuries, and the stereotypes around gendered racism have been perpetuated in North America for more than 500 years.
However, the fact that this is happening in 2018, and still not illegal, is absolutely horrific.