AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SUBMISSION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS STANDING COMMITTEE ON HEALTH STUDY ON FORCED STERILIZATION OF WOMEN IN CANADA
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S SUBMISSIONS TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Amnesty International submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee that forced and/or coerced sterilization in Canada is a serious human rights violation that disproportionately impacts Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit persons. The prevalence of medically unnecessary sterilizations on Indigenous women without their free, full, and informed consent – a practice which has gone on since the 1800s until the present day – is the result of racial bias against Indigenous peoples in the provision of health services in Canada.
Amnesty’s submission highlighted to a July 2017 report by the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority that documented the experience of 16 women who were coercively sterilized between 2005 and 2010. The report noted pervasive structural discrimination as a root cause of these. A class action lawsuit filed in October 2017 led to over 100 more Indigenous women coming forward with allegations of sterilization without full, free and informed consent.
Our submission further noted that forced and/or coerced sterilization is considered torture under the UN Convention Against Torture, to which Canada is a party. The UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) signalled in its 2018 review of Canada that this was a troubling human rights issue of great urgency. We noted the federal government’s responsibility for the Canada-wide implementation of the UNCAT recommendations as well as the necessity for federal coordination and leadership to address this issue. In light of this, we expressed concerns over the inadequate federal response against this extremely pressing, serious, and ongoing human rights violation.
Amnesty International submitted these concerns in a similar brief to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights in April 2019 as well.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S RECOMMENDATIONS
Amnesty International, along with other organizations including Indigenous women’s organizations, called on the federal government to take urgent action, particularly to do the following:
- thoroughly investigate all allegations of forced or coerced sterilizations of Indigenous women in Canada;
- establish policies and accountability mechanisms across Canada that provide clear guidance on how to ensure sterilizations are only performed with free, full, and informed consent; and provide access to justice for survivors and their families.
Amnesty International also laid out critical next steps as part of the federal government’s response to the issue of forced and/or coerced sterilization.
“Sterilizing Indigenous Women without Consent is Torture, says UN Committee” (7 December 2018)