The United Steelworkers is one of 72 organizations to endorse the joint statement from Amnesty International Canada, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, calling for government action to #DefendConsent and end #ForcedSterilization of Indigenous women in Canada.
Pressure is mounting for all levels of government and health bodies, with strong federal government leadership, to address the issue of sterilization without consent with great urgency. On Friday, the UN Committee Against Torture released a report calling on Canada to take immediate action to end this grave violation of human rights. Also on Friday, four questions were asked in the House of Commons on this issue. Today, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women is holding a briefing on the issue.
Urgent Action Needed to Ensure Indigenous Women Are Not Sterilized Without Their Consent
Across Canada and as recently as 2017, Indigenous women report being forcibly or coercively sterilized. Some women were incorrectly told the procedure is reversible. Others were separated from their babies until they consented to a tubal ligation.
Forced and coerced sterilizations of Indigenous women are a result of systemic violence and discrimination against Indigenous peoples in the provision of public services in Canada, a pattern well known and acknowledged by government. They are an assault on Indigenous women, their families, their communities, and their Nations that have already been subjected to forced assimilation through colonialism, including eugenic practices.
Sterilizing women without their free, full, and informed consent is a form of violence and torture. Measures to prevent births within ethnic or racial groups is explicitly prohibited by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
All women have the human right to make decisions around if, when, and how to create a family. All women have a right to live free from violence and discrimination. All women have a right to health.
We, the undersigned organizations call on the Government of Canada to take immediate action to address the issue of coerced and forced sterilizations of Indigenous women in Canada and:
- Investigate allegations of forced or coerced sterilizations in Canada, with particular attention to cases involving Indigenous women and girls, ensuring justice and reparations to survivors and their families.
- Appoint a special representative to meet with survivors and their families to hear their requests for justice and reparations.
- Apply existing criminal legislation on aggravated assault and disciplinary measures for breach of professional standards for cases of forced or coerced sterilization.
- Change government policies and practices to explicitly prohibit sterilization without free, full, and informed consent.
- Implement Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 23 and 24 on increasing the number of Indigenous healthcare professionals and providing cultural competency training to all healthcare professionals.
- Develop a comprehensive National Action Plan to prevent and address gender-based violence involving the federal government, provinces, territories, municipalities, and First Nations.
- Aboriginal Front Door Society
- Aboriginal Legal Services
- Aboriginal Women’s Action Network
- Action Canada on Sexual Health and Rights
- Alberta Society for the Promotion of Sexual Health
- Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada Montérégie – comité des femmes
- Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists – National
- Amnesty International Canada
- Amnistie internationale Canada Francophone
- Atira Women’s Resource Society
- The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
- BC Native Women’s Association
- British Columbia Civil Liberties Association – Association des libertés civiles de la Colombie-Britannique
- Canadian Association for Community Living
- Canadian Association of Midwives
- Canadian Association of University Teachers
- Canadian Civil Liberties Association
- Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
- Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action
- Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
- Canadian Health Coalition
- Canadian Labour Congress
- Canadian Union of Postal Workers STTP
- Canadian Union of Public Employees
- Canadian Union of Public Employees – Ontario
- Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
- Canada Without Poverty
- Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
- Centro de Desarrollo Andino Sisay (Peru)
- Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres (Peru)
- Comité des femmes Laval, Laurentides et Lanaudière et Abitibi-Témiscamingue
- Canadian Women’s Foundation
- DEMUS – Estudio para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (Peru)
- Fédération des femmes du Québec
- Federation of Medical Women of Canada
- Femmes Autochtones du Québec
- Femmes de l’Alliance de la fonction publique (Québec)
- First United Church Community Ministry Society, Vancouver
- Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa
- International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
- International Women’s Rights – Manitoba
- Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women
- Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development
- Inter Pares
- KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
- La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
- MATCH International Women’s Fund
- National Association of Women and the Law
- Native Women’s Association of Canada
- Nobel Women’s Initiative
- Ontario Federation of Labour
- Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
- Oxfam Canada
- Pacific Association of First Nations Women
- Public Service Alliance of Canada
- Save the Children Canada
- Sexual Health Nova Scotia
- Planned Parenthood Regina
- SHORE Centre
- Syndicat Québécois des Employées Et Employés de Service Section Local 298-FTQ
- UFCW Canada
- Union of BC Indian Chiefs
- United Steelworkers
- WAVAW Rape Crisis
- West Coast LEAF
- Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund (LEAF)
- Women’s Shelter Canada
- Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights
- YWCA Canada
- Dr. Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University
- Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot, Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics