Veteran B.C. MP Don Davies is calling for the Trudeau government to lay out the steps it is taking to address allegations of forced and coerced sterilizations of women in Canada.
In a letter sent to the Prime Minister this week, Mr. Davies points to findings from the United Nations Committee Against Torture last December that extensive forced or coerced sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada is a form of torture. It also called on Canada to provide an update by next month on what it is doing about it.
Mr. Davies’s letter to Mr. Trudeau asks the government to confirm whether it will meet the committee’s deadline and how Canada plans to respond to its recommendations, which include ensuring all allegations of forced or coerced sterilization are impartially investigated.
“I’ve asked the Prime Minister to tell Canadians what steps his government has taken in the last year, outline if and how he has met the committee’s requirements and if he will meet the reporting deadline,” he said in an interview. The UN committee also called for people responsible to be held accountable, and that victims receive adequate redress.
There has been little evidence that the government has taken effective action, added Mr. Davies, who was the NDP’s health critic in the previous Parliament. “We simply don’t know what they’ve done."
The House of Commons health committee heard from witnesses in the spring, and in August called for the federal government to immediately address the “deeply disturbing” cases of vulnerable women being coerced or forced into sterilizations. It made 18 recommendations, including an investigation by an arms-length panel, and making forced sterilization a crime.
During the health committee’s work, lawyer Alisa Lombard testified that 100 Indigenous women from different regions of the country say they endured coerced sterilizations.
Ms. Lombard also cited an allegation from December, 2018, that a 30-year-old Nakota woman from Saskatoon who was sterilized after a cesarean section at a Moose Jaw hospital.
In a statement to The Globe and Mail, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it takes very seriously any concerns related to patient care, adding that it initiated an investigation into the Moose Jaw report.
That investigation remains open, the statement said, but the health authority declined to comment further as the matter is now the subject of legal action.
Last week, Independent Senator Yvonne Boyer also called for Mr. Trudeau to ensure the issue is “front and centre” for cabinet ministers in their mandate letters, and called for an urgent action plan to stop unwanted sterilization procedures.
In response to Dr. Boyer, the office of then Indigenous Services minister Seamus O’Regan called forced and coerced sterilization a “violation of human rights and an issue the Ministers of Health and Indigenous Services are addressing with their provincial counterparts.”
Mr. O’Regan was named Natural Resources Minister on Wednesday, and Quebec MP Marc Miller took over Indigenous Services.