Feds reject push to alter Criminal Code outlawing forced sterilization
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.