Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture

By Rowland Smith | Go to book overview

10

FAS and Cultural Discourse: Who
Speaks for Native Women?

Cheryl Suzack

On 6 August 1996, Justice Perry Schulman of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench ordered a twenty-two-year- old Native woman from Winnipeg's inner city to enter a drug treatment program for substance addiction. The woman, who was five months pregnant at the time and who had three children in the care of child welfare agencies, was brought to court by the Manitoba Department of Child and Family Services when she refused to enter a treatment program of her own volition. A spokesperson for the department asked, "how many badly damaged children does a person have a right to bring into this world? It seemed to us that this was such an extreme case that we had to do something” (Mitchell 1996:7). In handing down his decision, Justice Schulman enforced an obscure section of penal law known as parens patriae which enables a superior court judge to restrict the rights of persons who are in danger of harming themselves (Mitchell 1996:7). Justice Schulman stated that since the woman was incapable of looking after herself, "he was ordering her into a drug treatment centre for her own protection” (Mitchell 1996:7). While Justice Schulman's ruling was overturned on the grounds that the woman was "mentally competent” to stand trial, the court case remains as a problematic reminder of the implications of imperial governance. For inasmuch as it consolidates and constructs

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Notes to chapter 10 are on pp. 152-53.

-145-

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