Trigger Warning

This webpage and the links and documents within it contain discussions of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people, violations of bodily integrity and genocide, which may be triggering.

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For further resources, crisis lines, toolkits and shelter contacts, NWAC has created a Resource ‘Zine with regional contact information.

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If you are experiencing crisis, you may phone the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310.

Vision Statement

NWAC envisions a world where Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people are safe from violence and free from discrimination. Canada must be held to the highest standard of human rights that exists in international and domestic law. Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people are rights holders. They have constitutional, reproductive and human rights that must not be violated. They deserve to have their free, prior and informed consent respected, upheld, and defended.

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Summary

In the past, many provinces in Canada had laws that allowed the forcible sterilization of many marginalized groups, including Indigenous women. This is a violation of human rights, Charter rights and reproductive rights of Indigenous women and girls. Although those laws are no longer in effect, there have been reports of forced and coerced sterilization in Canadian hospitals as recently as December 2018. As many as 100 women have now come forward to tell their stories. There are class action lawsuits taking place in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Forced sterilization has been occurring since at least the 1930s. It has been reported that some Indigenous women were led to believe the procedure (tubal ligation) was reversible or that they would still be able to have children in the future. Some Indigenous women have reported that child and family services would take their children away if they didn’t consent to the procedure. In some cases Indigenous women expressly denied consent to the surgeries, but the surgeries were performed without consent. These are not only serious violations of human rights – the United Nations Commission against Torture has stated that this practice is torture- the Geneva Convention states that forced sterilization is a crime against humanity.

Laws allowing for the sterilization of Indigenous women officially ended in B.C. and Alberta in 1973 and 1972, respectively they were the only two provinces with written legislation allowing this horrendous practice, but there is clear research confirming that forced sterilization occurred in other parts of Canada as well. There is also a plethora of evidence that this practice didn’t stop when the legislation was repealed. There is evidence that forced sterilization continues to this day.1

NWAC has been working with partners Amnesty International, Action Canada and Inter Pares to bring national attention to this serious issue and to advocate for immediate action by the Canadian government, the provinces, and medical authorities to bring an end to the forced and coerced sterilization of Indigenous women. NWAC has testified before the Senate and has issued statements supporting the victims before the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as to the Canadian government.

Recommendations

  1. NWAC calls for a reparation fund to be established to compensate victims and their families immediately.
  2. NWAC calls on the Canadian government and law enforcement to immediately investigate allegations of forced and coerced sterilization as a criminal act, and further calls for the explicit criminalization of forced and coerced sterilization in Canada.
  3. NWAC calls for a coordinated, national response to forced and coerced sterilization that involves the Federal Government, provincial governments, and medical regulatory authorities. This includes the placement of Indigenous advocates in all Canadian hospitals, and widespread and fully funded use of Indigenous midwives in communities.
  1. Stote, Karen. The Coercive Sterilization of Aboriginal Women in Canada. http://www.fqpn.qc.ca/main/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/AICRJ_STOTE-STERILIZATION.pdf