Canada has a long history of forced sterilizations on Indigenous women. Current reports confirm the practice continues to this day, and a group of Indigenous women are now suing the government of Canada and the physicians involved . 

Alisa Lombard, a lawyer with Maurice Law, the first Indigenous-owned national law firm in Canada, is representing a class-action lawsuit by 60 Indigenous women who undertook forced sterilizations in Saskatchewan. The lawsuit targets the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the province of Saskatchewan and the Canadian government. Lombard explained to the Current that the forced sterilizations occurred after labor, with women told they could not see their children unless they consent. “In the throes of labor… they would be approached, harassed, coerced into signing these consent forms,” she said.

Some women say they were told the process, tubal ligation, was reversible, but it has had major mental and physical detriments on many of them. “Many have had bouts and persistent depression, anxiety — many are no longer with us because of those ailments and those circumstances,” Lombard explains.

Senator Yvonne Boyer of Ontario and Dr. Judy Bartlett, a physician and former professor with the College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, conducted an independent review and published a detailed report of interviews with multiple Indigenous women describing the coercive threats by physicians.

Senator Boyer is now calling for the government to conduct a nationwide survey to research the magnitude of the issue. “If it’s happened in Saskatoon, it has happened in Regina, it’s happened in Winnipeg, it’s happened where there’s a high population of Indigenous women,” Boyer said in an interview with CBC News. “I’ve had many women contact me from across the country and ask me for help.”

In a news conference, Jackie Mann, vice-president of integrated health services, apologized on behalf of the Saskatoon Health Region, “I want to apologize to the women who came forward in the review, who’ve come forward to us in the past, and who haven’t yet been able to come forward to us.”