In 2008, a Native American woman identified as Anishinaabe had just given birth to a child via emergency C-section at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. While she was being transferred to receive necessary surgery and — and after being given opioids — Anishinaabe says that hospital staff plied her with documents asking her to consent to tubal ligation, or sterilization. They claimed that the procedure would be reversible in the future if she changed her mind. In truth, however, this would be a permanent operation.
In a haze, Anishinaabe signed the documents.
More than a year ago, Anishinaable and 20 other First Nations women in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan filed a class action lawsuit against various medical staff and medical centers, as well as the Saskatchewan and Canadian government, for what they claim were coerced sterilizations performed after they had given birth.
Since then, at least 60 women in Saskatchewan have joined the lawsuit, all with accounts similar to Anishinaable’s. Some cases go back 25 years, but the most recent allegations are from 2017. Some women say they were even told by hospital staff that they would be unable to see their newborns until they consented to sterilization.
A common thread among these accounts is that these women were misled to believe that the sterilization could be undone at a later time.
Some women were not even allowed to give birth in the first place. A woman identified as Liz says that when she was 17 and became pregnant, a government aid worker coerced her into having an abortion and undergoing a sterilization procedure. Liz explains that she was told the child would be taken from her regardless of her choice.
Alisa Lombard, a lawyer representing the group, says that these women have been left feeling physically and emotionally traumatized. They’ve experienced depression and anxiety — which, in tragic cases, has pushed some of the victims to take their own lives.
Among the genocide and inhumane treatment inflicted upon native peoples in Canada and the United States was the practice of forced sterilization. This form of eugenics was inflicted upon not just indigenous groups, but also individuals considered “degenerates” by white supremacists, including people of color, the impoverished and drug users.
Undeniably one of the most shameful moments of our shared past, many people likely see it as just that – an abandoned practice. But this clearly is not the case. Take Action!
Sen. Yvonne Boyer is calling on her peers in the Canadian Senate to pursue a nationwide investigation into this act of systemic racist eugenics. As she explains, “If it’s happened in Saskatoon, it has happened in Regina, it’s happened in Winnipeg.”
Europeans and their descendants have murdered and abused the indigenous populations of North America for centuries. It is beyond incredible that such programs, albeit performed less conspicuously now, are still ongoing.
Add your name to this Care2 petition to demand that the Canadian Senate authorize an in-depth, nationwide probe into the treatment of First Nations women by health care providers. These gross human rights violations must be brought to an end!
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