‘Stain’ on all of us, says NDP MP of crit­i­cal re­port

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - KRISTY KIRKUP

OT­TAWA • Hu­man-rights or­ga­ni­za­tions and the fed­eral NDP de­manded on Fri­day that the Liberal gov­ern­ment act on a re­port by the UN Com­mit­tee Against Tor­ture de­tail­ing the “ex­ten­sive forced or co­erced sterilization” of Indige­nous women and girls in Canada.

The Geneva-based com­mit­tee said Canada must en­sure all such al­le­ga­tions are im­par­tially in­ves­ti­gated and that those re­spon­si­ble are held to ac­count. The state needs to take leg­isla­tive and pol­icy mea­sures to stop women from be­ing ster­il­ized against their will, the United Nations said.

The re­port con­firms Canada is tor­tur­ing Indige­nous women through forced sterilization, NDP MP Rachel Blaney said in the House of Com­mons.

“Do the Lib­er­als not un­der­stand that this is a stain on our coun­try, a stain on ev­ery one of us in this House?” she said dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod. “Why are the Lib­er­als tol­er­at­ing forced sterilization of Indige­nous women?”

Be­fore the re­port’s re­lease, Jus­tice Minister Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould’s of­fice said the gov­ern­ment is tak­ing a “pub­lic-health ap­proach” to the is­sue, though the gov­ern­ment be­lieves ev­ery­one must re­ceive cul­tur­ally safe health ser­vices no mat­ter where they live.

Wil­son-Ray­bould’s par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary Arif Vi­rani re­it­er­ated that mes­sage as he an­swered Blaney’s ques­tion.

“The co­erced sterilization of Indige­nous women is a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights and it is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able,” he said.

The minister’s of­fice has pointed to pro­vi­sions within the crim­i­nal code meant to for­bid “a range of crim­i­nal be­hav­iour” that would cover forced ster­il­iza­tions, in­clud­ing ag­gra­vated as­sault.

Out­side the Com­mons, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Canada’s gen­der-rights cam­paigner Jackie Hansen in­sisted that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment needs to do things more con­crete than con­demn­ing it when women have their abil­ity to have chil­dren taken away.

“I think what ev­ery­one wants to see is this prac­tice ended,” she told a news con­fer­ence on Par­lia­ment Hill. “What we want to see is a firm com­mit­ment from gov­ern­ment to demon­strate how that is go­ing to hap­pen.”

Hansen’s or­ga­ni­za­tion has called on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to ap­point a spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive to hear from Indige­nous women co­erced into be­ing ster­il­ized to learn what jus­tice would look like for sur­vivors.

The UN com­mit­tee’s re­port speaks to the lack of ac­tion to ad­dress the is­sue, Hansen added.

“We re­ally look for­ward to Canada’s re­sponse to how it is go­ing to im­ple­ment the strong rec­om­men­da­tions is­sued by the com­mit­tee against tor­ture,” she said. “It is clear that there is stigma, there is shame around this is­sue and very dif­fi­cult for women to come for­ward and re­port what has hap­pened to them.” Indige­nous women and girls de­serve the same level of re­spect as any­one else when they re­ceive med­i­cal ser­vices, said Na­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Fran­cyne Joe.

“To en­gage in an in­va­sive, med­i­cally un­nec­es­sary surgery with­out one’s free, full and in­formed con­sent is a very se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of a per­son’s right to bod­ily in­tegrity,” she said. “The Cana­dian med­i­cal pro­fes­sion must re­spect con­sent and the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment must de­fend con­sent.”

A pro­posed class-ac­tion law­suit led by lawyer Alisa Lombard and her firm Mau­rice Law is also un­der­way, tar­get­ing the Saska­toon Health Au­thor­ity, the Saskatchewan gov­ern­ment, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and a hand­ful of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als as de­fen­dants.

More women have dis­closed their ex­pe­ri­ence with co­erced sterilization as me­dia cov­er­age on the is­sue has con­tin­ued, Hansen said.

About 100 women have now come for­ward to re­port they have been forcibly ster­il­ized, Lombard said — a jump of 40 women since The Cana­dian Press pub­lished a story in Novem­ber de­tail­ing a push from On­tario Sen. Yvonne Boyer to study the is­sue na­tion­ally.



Jackie Hansen, gen­der rights cam­paigner with Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Canada, re­sponds to a UN re­port in Ot­tawa on Fri­day. “I think what ev­ery­one wants to see is this prac­tice ended,” she said of co­erced ster­il­iza­tions of Indige­nous women and girls in Canada.

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