WASHINGTON – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed concern on Friday over reports of forced sterilizations of indigenous women in Canada and called for an end to the use of this method and its criminalization.
In a statement released in Washington DC, the Commission noted that non-consensual sterilizations “cause pain and suffering to the women affected and represent a form of gender-based violence and discrimination.”
In the statement, it urged Canada to “guarantee effective access to justice for survivors and their families, to conduct impartial and immediate investigations, to hold those responsible to account and to take all of the necessary measures to put an end to the practice of sterilizing women against their will.”
Some 60 indigenous women in the central Canadian province of Saskatchewan have filed a class action lawsuit against local authorities in 2017, alleging that they were sterilized without their express consent.
According to the women, while in labor, they were pressured to authorize sterilizations, in some cases under the threat that they would not be able to see their newborns until they accepted tubal ligation.
The reports refer to sterilizations that have occurred in the country in the past 20 or 25 years, although some cases occurred in 2017.
The IACHR indicated that it has received, “in a consistent and systematic manner, reports from indigenous women, girls and adolescents who claim to have been subjected to sterilizations without their full, free and informed consent in Canada.”
The agency expressed concern about reports of sterilizations in several Canadian provinces, including Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan.
“Indigenous women must be treated with dignity and respect and are moreover subject to special protection due to the historical discrimination they continue to face,” Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said in the statement.
Urrejola considered forced sterilizations of indigenous women “a totally unacceptable violation of human rights” and a “flagrant expression of violence and discrimination based on both gender and ethnicity.”
The Commission urged the government of Canada “to put an end to the practice of forced sterilization by adopting legislative and regulatory measures to prevent it” and to criminalize it.