Newspaper article The Canadian Press

AFN National Chief Urges Action on 'Gross Human-Rights Violation'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

AFN National Chief Urges Action on 'Gross Human-Rights Violation'

Article excerpt

National chief urges action on sterilization

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OTTAWA - Forced sterilizations of Indigenous women are reprehensible and must immediately be stopped, says Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

The scope of the problem must also be examined across Canada, Bellegarde said.

"It is wrong, it is immoral, it is a gross violation of human rights and this dehumanizing practice must stop," Bellegarde said in an interview.

He also stressed the need for urgent investigation to ensure proper statistics are collected. He pointed to a resolution passed by First Nations chiefs this summer at the AFN's annual general assembly calling for increased awareness, efforts to stop the practice and support for survivors seeking redress.

The national chief's comments come as Maurice Law, an Indigenous-owned national law firm, and Amnesty International Canada plan to raise the issue at the United Nations Committee Against Torture next week.

In its submission to the UN committee, the firm says it is seeking legal reforms to stop the "modern-day forced sterilization of Indigenous women in publicly funded and administered hospitals in Canada."

The firm is also leading a proposed class action against all health regions across Saskatchewan, the federal and Saskatchewan governments and individual medical professionals.

The lawsuit was launched in 2017 by two affected women in the Saskatoon Health Region who each claimed $7 million in damages. Now about 60 women are part of the lawsuit.

Accountability for forced tubal ligations --the severing, burning or tying of the Fallopian tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus --will involve several jurisdictions, Bellegarde said.

"It is not just the federal government you have to point fingers at," he said. "You have to point fingers at provincial governments and district health boards because that's where the money flows, and start getting them to communicate to their doctors and nurses that this has to stop. …

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