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Health (18-24)

Victim of forced sterilization in Ottawa to push law that would penalize doctors

February 29, 2024

Senator’s private member’s bill aims to put an end to forced sterilizations.

APTN News: Nicole Rabbit says she came to Ottawa to deliver a message for her mother.

“She would have said ‘Someone has to be accountable for the act of genocide that we Indigenous people have faced and continue to face in regards to forced and coerced sterilization,’” Rabbit, who is from the Blood Tribe in Alberta and serves on the Survivors Circle for Reproductive Justice, told a senate committee on Thursday.

“We Indigenous people have always been poorly treated and we would like it to stop.”

Rabbit’s story is told in a senate report called The Scars That We Carry which was released in July 2022.

“Rabbit was scheduled to undergo a cesarean delivery at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She was administered an epidural and nitrous oxide for the procedure and her hands were restrained to her sides,” the study said.

She said the procedure went normally but, “Their happiness, however, was replaced with concern when – while she remained immobilized –
her newborn baby was taken away and the doctors and nurses left the room. When they returned, she was told she could “couldn’t hold another baby.”

“Moments later I could smell something burning and thought, ‘Did they just burn my tubes?’ Then the doctor proceeded to close me up.”

Both Rabbit and her late mother were forced into having sterilizations against their will.

Sen. Yvonne Boyer outside the senate hearing in Ottawa. Photo: Kerry Slack/APTN.

Rabbit in Ottawa to give evidence in support of a private members bill put forward by Sen. Yvonne Boyer from Ontario. Bill S-250 will put an end to the practice of forced and coerced sterilizations once and for all.

“There hasn’t been any convictions under the assault provisions so this will be more of a deterrent and it specifically deals with sterilization,” Boyer said outside a Senate committee meeting on Thursday. “Sterilization is the focus of this bill, not general assault or anything like that. It’s just sterilization that will act as a deterrent.”

Boyer’s private members would make doctors who perform forced and coerced sterilizations liable for conviction under the Criminal Code of Canada.

The practice is already classified as an assault offence but victims like Rabbit believe more is needed.

Boyer told APTN she was originally against putting forward the legislation fearing it would only re-traumatize Indigenous women by forcing them into the justice system but changed her mind after listening to survivor stories like Rabbit’s.

“They were testifying at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights and I was able to hear their voices and realize that it comes from the heart and it is the only way there’s going to be any reparation is through making people accountable for what they’re doing and we heard that today from one of the survivors,” said Boyer, who is Métis.

Bill S-250 has passed two readings in the Senate and Boyer said the legislation does have government support and could pass through Parliament and become law by June.

Forced and coerced sterilizations have been the topic of a number of studies including this 2022 Senate study.

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