Feds re­ject push to al­ter Crim­i­nal Code out­law­ing forced ster­il­iza­tion

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada&world - KRISTY KIRKUP

OT­TAWA — The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment does not plan to change the Crim­i­nal Code to ex­plic­itly out­law co­erced ster­il­iza­tion — re­ject­ing a res­o­lu­tion passed by First Na­tions chiefs on Thurs­day.

Heather Bear, the vice-chief of the Fed­er­a­tion of Sovereign Indige­nous Na­tions that in­cludes 74 First Na­tions in Saskatchewan, said Thurs­day that Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould — a for­mer As­sem­bly of First Na­tions re­gional chief her­self, in Bri­tish Columbia — must “do the right thing.”

“The prime min­is­ter of Canada has made all th­ese state­ments on the na­tional stage about truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Bear said in an in­ter­view. “We know the jus­tice sys­tem doesn’t work for us, but this is one way we can put an end to this. I’m re­ally sur­prised.”

Dozens of Indige­nous women say they’ve been pres­sured into ster­il­iza­tion pro­ce­dures they didn’t want or had them car­ried out with­out be­ing asked when they were see­ing doc­tors for other rea­sons.

Co­erced ster­il­iza­tion must be crim­i­nal­ized to en­sure le­gal ac­count­abil­ity, Bear said, ad­ding the is­sue is con­nected to the is­sue of vi­o­lence against Indige­nous women — the sub­ject of a na­tional in­quiry un­der­way in Canada.

“Now it is about killing the ones un­born,” Bear said. “It is re­ally a dev­as­tat­ing is­sue that I hope there is more and more aware­ness (about) each and ev­ery day.”

Bear’s com­ments come af­ter Wil­son-Ray­bould’s of­fice said in a state­ment to The Cana­dian Press that it’s is tak­ing a pub­lichealth ap­proach to the is­sue.

“The co­erced ster­il­iza­tion of some Indige­nous women is a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights and is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able,” said the min­is­ter’s spokesper­son David Tay­lor.

But he pointed to ex­ist­ing pro­vi­sions within the Crim­i­nal Code meant to for­bid “a range of crim­i­nal be­hav­iour,” in­clud­ing forced ster­il­iza­tions.

Hu­man-rights groups — the Na­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Canada and Ac­tion Canada for Sex­ual Health and Rights — are ex­pected to re­spond to rec­om­men­da­tions to be re­leased by the com­mit­tee on Fri­day.

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