Last August, while I was covering the federal election, I received an email from W5 regarding a story they needed my help with – the forced sterilization of Indigenous women.
While I was thrilled to expose what was happening to women in my community, this story sounded sad and familiar to me. A few years ago my sister Jackie told me that she was sterilized against her will after giving birth to my nephew Darian. She didn’t find out until many years later. At the time, she says her doctor didn’t want to be associated with the results and told her to take another test somewhere else for fear of losing her job.
As in my sister’s story, the same disturbing pattern emerged when I spoke with other Indigenous women who said they had been forced into sterilization.
During labor, there was a complication that required a caesarean section. The women signed a consent form for this surgery, but minutes before, and sometimes even on the way to the operating room, their doctor added a tubal ligation.
Now remember, these are women in labor, panicked about the health of their babies, at their most vulnerable, with only minutes to consent to a permanent, life-changing procedure.
Melika Popp, one of the women I interviewed for the story, described how she felt when her doctor added tubal ligation to her consent form.
“It didn’t really feel like it to me back then when I had the ability to say no. Like these doctors were there to help me, I believed it back then. And I believe I was in survival mode,” she said.
Melika is one of the lead plaintiffs in a proposed class action suit for the forced sterilization of Indigenous women in Saskatchewan.
His lawyer Alisa Lombard said more than 100 women have contacted her since the class action lawsuit was launched in 2017.
Although Lombard is passionate about getting justice for her clients, she also said it was “terribly sad. There was a time when for months, you know, I was getting calls probably every other day.
Today, there are 5 proposed class action lawsuits in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec involving thousands of Indigenous women, according to Lombard.
Many of the women who said they were sterilized against their will are from Saskatchewan.
W5 contacted the names of the doctors in the proposed class action lawsuit in that province, but their attorney said that with the matter still in court, they could not comment on the case.
We also contacted Paul Merriman, Saskatchewan Minister of Health. He said he would not appear on camera, but in a statement, “a new tubal ligation consent policy and procedure came into effect June 16, 2021.”
Finally, the Attorney General of Canada was named in the class actions proposed by Lombard in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In the 1970s, the federal government ran an “Indian Hospital” where, according to hospital records, 1,150 Native women were sterilized.
The Attorney General also declined W5’s interview request, but Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and her office responded with statements that they were working with provincial governments to “…increase security and respect for Aboriginal women in Canada’s health care system. »
ISC also mentioned having provided funding to several Indigenous women’s organizations, including: the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the National Collaborating Center for Indigenous Health, and Indigenous midwives and doulas. Finally, they said they pledged an additional $126.7 million over the next three years.
But the promises of the provincial and federal governments hardly reassure Melika Popp and Alisa Lombard.
Melika said she believes forced sterilization of Indigenous women is still happening in Canada today and that’s why she agreed to share her story with W5.
“I just don’t want a woman to go through that kind of violation, that kind of…sadness, you know, with that feeling of not being complete as a woman,” she said.
Lombard acknowledged that some people still have the misconception that Indigenous women don’t make good mothers and that may be why their doctors think they should be sterilized.
When I asked her what she thought of people who believed that Aboriginal women couldn’t care for their children, she said, “Honestly, I would thank them for exposing the very kinds of prejudices and stereotypes which are causing the problem. . “
Watch W5’s “Without Consent” at 7 p.m. local time on CTV
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