In a pending class action lawsuit, 60 indigenous Canadian women claimed they were coerced into tubal ligation in Saskatchewan hospitals. Now, Amnesty International is making moves to ensure Canadian courts take them seriously, according to The Guardian.
The lawsuit has yet to be certified by a judge, but this week Amnesty International announced it will lobby the UN committee against torture to increase pressure on the Canadian government to act.
In the lawsuit, some of the women say they were told by hospital officials that they wouldn’t be able to see their newborns unless they consented to the procedure. Others say the operations—in which tubes were tied, burned, and cut—were performed when they couldn’t give consent.
The practice of forced sterilization was brought to light in 2015 after four women came forward with their experiences, prompting an apology from authorities and new rules around the process. However, according to the lawsuit, public hospitals were still coercing sterilizations as recently as 2017.
Others, like Senator Yvonne Boyer, are calling for a nationwide investigation, according to the CBC.
Senator Yvonne Boyer, an indigenous lawyer who co-authored an independent report on the experiences of women in Saskatchewan, believes the problem is likely more widespread than currently understood.
“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 told the Canadian Press. “I’ve had many women contact me from across the country and ask me for help.”
Senator Boyer is also recommending that Canada hold perpetrators accountable by criminalizing forced sterilization and taking more steps to educate health professionals around ethical sterilization practices.
Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, also joined those demanding a broader investigation.
“It is wrong, it is immoral, it is a gross violation of human rights, and this dehumanizing practice must stop,” he told the Canadian Press.