Ev­i­dence of racism

Tubal lig­a­tions of Indige­nous women ‘trou­bling’: Ben­nett

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY KRISTY KIRKUP

Re­ports that women in and around Saska­toon were be­ing co­erced into tubal lig­a­tion pro­ce­dures are ev­i­dence of racism in a health-care sys­tem that re­mains bi­ased against Abo­rig­i­nal women, Canada’s Indige­nous af­fairs min­is­ter says.

In an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press, Carolyn Ben­nett called last week’s re­port “com­pletely trou­bling” and a sign that some doc­tors are still will­ing to project onto cer­tain pa­tients what they con­sider an “op­ti­mal fam­ily size.”

“It is a very pa­ter­nal­is­tic ap­proach,” Ben­nett said. “I think that we yet again are con­fronted with the racism in all of our in­sti­tu­tions.”

The re­port was re­searched and com­piled by Yvonne Boyer, a lawyer and a Canada Re­search Chair at Man­i­toba’s Bran­don Univer­sity, and Dr. Ju­dith Bartlett, a physi­cian and re­searcher.

They doc­u­mented how some Indige­nous women from Saska­toon and the sur­round­ing area were co­erced into hav­ing their Fal­lop­ian tubes clamped or sev­ered af­ter giv­ing birth in hos­pi­tal.

Most of the women who were in­ter­viewed for the re­port ei­ther did not re­call con­sent­ing to the pro­ce­dure, or did so be­cause they were ex­hausted and too over­whelmed to fight any longer, the re­searchers found.

Their re­port also sug­gests the tubal lig­a­tions were jus­ti­fied as an ef­fort to help Indige­nous women man­age the size of their fam­i­lies.

“The doc­tors and nurses say, ‘It’s for your ben­e­fit,’” one woman told the in­ves­ti­ga­tors. “‘You have all th­ese chil­dren. En­joy her while you have her.’”

In re­sponse to the find­ings, the Saska­toon Health Re­gion said it deeply re­grets what hap­pened, ac­knowl­edg­ing it failed to treat the women with the re­spect, com­pas­sion and sup­port they de­serve.

It re­quested the ex­ter­nal re­view af­ter pa­tients went to the me­dia to raise aware­ness about what they ex­pe­ri­enced.

Ben­nett, a physi­cian her­self, said dis­crim­i­na­tion in health de­mands ur­gent at­ten­tion, not­ing it can be very dif­fi­cult for pa­tients to deal with health care providers who have an un­con­scious bias.

She also pointed to a 2015 re­port, en­ti­tled “First Peo­ples, Sec­ond Class Treat­ment,” that ex­plored racism in the health­care sys­tem and rec­om­mended im­prov­ing the col­lec­tion of Indige­nous health data to pre­vent racism from caus­ing dis­par­i­ties in care.

In­deed, al­le­ga­tions of racially mo­ti­vated mis­treat­ment are not lim­ited to po­lice and the jus­tice sys­tem, Ben­nett said.

“It is in my pro­fes­sion, too,” she said. “I think ev­ery­body is very aware that it is not just the so­cial de­ter­mi­nants of health that are re­spon­si­ble for the gaps in health out­comes, but ac­tu­ally the qual­ity of care they re­ceive.”

Boyer and Bartlett sus­pect the ex­pe­ri­ence of the women in Saskatchewan is likely not ex­clu­sive to the prov­ince, adding a broader look would help de­ter­mine the ex­tent to which the prob­lem ex­ists else­where in Canada.

Indige­nous women who shared their sto­ries for the re­port are also seek­ing a na­tional re­view, they added.


Min­is­ter of Indige­nous and North­ern Af­fairs Carolyn Ben­nett speaks as AFN Na­tional Chief Perry Bel­le­garde looks on at the As­sem­bly of First Na­tions an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Regina, Sask. Ben­nett says she’s trou­bled by re­ports of Indige­nous women in and around Saska­toon be­ing co­erced into tubal lig­a­tion pro­ce­dures.

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